Tuesday, March 13, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Oliver Frank Hutton
Mr. McLachlan: On behalf of the Yukon Legislature, I rise today to pay respect to a true veteran of the Mayo area, Oliver Frank Hutton.
Oliver was born in April 1922, in a rural country farmhouse at Ellscott, Alberta. He had but eight years of formal education, leaving school at 14 to seek his first job tending to a neighbour's homestead. For in 1936, at the peak of the depression, it wasn't education but just darned good, old-fashioned, hard work that got people through. This hard work ethic was to serve him well in later years in the Yukon. His first job landed him the whopping salary of $60 a year. but it was enough to draw a young fellow to the bright lights of Edmonton.
Shortly thereafter, in 1938, he got his first chauffeur's licence at 16 and this was to eventually lead to a 50-year career in the trucking industry.
He had a great love for junior hockey in his time in Edmonton and, in the 1946-47 season, coached a team to a first-place gold medal in the provincial triple-A Alberta championships.
He got itchy feet in Edmonton and, in 1952, ventured further north to a land that beckoned with excitement, riches, rewards and the promise of a lifestyle that one just couldn't find in the city.
His hard work in Mayo led him to business success in passenger transportation, trucking and the fuel-oil distribution business. He was inducted into the Transportation Hall of Fame and was named Transportation Person of the Year in 1998.
He served on many boards and committees; territorially it was the Yukon Liquor Board and locally it was the Hospital Board and the local improvement district, the forerunner to Mayo's present mayor and council system.
In 1987, he received an award from the village council for his years of outstanding contribution to the community. He was a member of the Royal Order of Freemasons for 38 years and was a shining example of the society's values, virtues and character required of its members.
He loved the outdoors, especially the area around Ethel Lake. He always said that the hunting, fishing, trapping and camping around the lake were nothing short of "par excellence".
He is survived by his wife Irene, eight children - five of whom still live in the Yukon - 25 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His bright smile, his hard work, his dedication to the territory and the community he loved and appreciated will be missed by all.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw attention to Mr. Wayne Klippert, who is a nephew of Oliver Hutton and is well-known to this side of the Legislature as the President of the Yukon Liberal Party.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return regarding nuclear waste and Russia's plans to ship through the Arctic Ocean for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) climate change is increasingly being recognized as one of the most serious environmental issues facing the world;
(2) ecosystems in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions are particularly susceptible to the influence of climate change and global warming; (3) the previous Yukon NDP government envisioned the possibility of the Yukon providing leadership in the Northern Circumpolar Region in the area of climate change monitoring and analysis; and
(4) the Yukon Liberal Government's commitments to climate change in the budget for 2001-02 represent only a "stay the course" approach to this important global issue, and fail to provide any leadership or vision; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to work closely with the federal government, as well as with non-government environmental groups, academic institutions and private research foundations to identify practical, joint initiatives that could be taken without delay to give the issue of climate change in global change in Canada's northern regions the attention it deserves.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Minister of Health and Social Services should revise his departmental spending priorities by reducing excessive, ever-increasing administration costs in order to provide new program funding to establish a team of health care professionals skilled in treating FAS/FAE, including diagnostic testing.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Support for women's shelters
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise to make comments and to inform the members of the House that Health and Social Services is taking steps to support the dedicated people who spend their days and nights supporting women and children who experience violence in their lives.
Mr. Speaker, family violence affects us all. It affects parents, friends, co-workers, communities. And we must make concrete steps to prevent and avoid this kind of approach. The government recognizes the important role played by our communities in fighting family violence. We also recognize that women's shelters take on the role of providing support, shelter and hope to women and their children who find themselves in difficult and intolerable situations. They do this on behalf of the community.
It is the policy of this government to review programs to ensure that they continue to provide quality service to the public. It is also the policy of this government to ensure that the taxpayers' money is being spent in a responsible manner. I am referring to the quality public services like those provided by the women's shelters. It is the money from each and every taxpayer's pocket that must be carefully managed to ensure that this service is meeting the needs of the communities.
This government has been fiscally responsible. We have allocated an increase to women's shelters in the Yukon for the provision of quality public service. I take note, Mr. Speaker, that it has been at least eight years that we have not seen increases. I am pleased to note that we have a zero tolerance for family violence. There are policies and legislation to respond to family violence at both national and territorial levels, and there are places for women and children to turn to in times of need.
By working together with our communities and by addressing an increasing financial demand upon women's shelters, this government can help stop family violence. It is our long-term goal to stop family violence.
Shelters in the territory provide housing and support services to abused women and their families. Unfortunately, that need keeps growing.
In recognition of both the increasing need and the services provided by our local shelters, I am pleased to be providing an additional $100,000 to Kaushee's Place in Whitehorse to help assist with the increasing demand of services from families seeking sanctuary there. In addition, agencies in the rural communities often experience difficulty in attracting and keeping qualified staff. The staff not only assist women and their children experiencing family violence; they also serve children.
Well-qualified staff members are essential for the successful operation of these shelters. To support this need, the Help and Hope in Watson Lake and the Dawson City shelter will each receive $62,000 to assist them with wage increases for their staff. Mr. Speaker, that is an increase of almost 48 percent in their annual budget.
Ensuring the safety of our families and children is a priority of this government. Increasing funding of nearly one-quarter of a million dollars is a major step forward to this government's platform commitment to increase support to agencies offering specialized programming for parents and children.
The valuable work of these shelters and the people who work in them deserve the full support of this Legislature. Once again, Mr. Speaker, it demonstrates this government's will to respond to what we promised in the election 10 months ago.
Mr. Keenan: I rise today to respond to this ministerial statement. I would like to point out, as our leader said in his response to the budget speech, that we strongly support the increase of funding to the women's shelters.
But what the minister said is fundamentally wrong, because in our very first budget, we increased the core funding for the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake by 11 percent. So, there have been increases. Our support, Mr. Speaker, has not changed also.
I would like to take the time to respond to the statement now. It is not a statement of new policy. It's just a re-hash of the budget speech. I can understand that the minister needs to have something positive to announce here, given his recent track record with community groups, just this session.
Now, in order to meet the Liberals' long-term goal of stopping family violence, more should be done to provide prevention programming. Simply increasing funds to shelters, which is necessary, will not stop family violence. This statement does not promote new government policy, nor does it address the root causes of family violence. While we support the increase of funds to women's shelters, we also look forward to seeing policy that would work to prevent family violence.
Mr. Jenkins: While I welcome and strongly support the increased spending for women's shelters - for Kaushee's in Whitehorse, the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake, as well as the Dawson City shelter - this funding increase was previously announced on page 11 of the Budget Address.
The minister must have dozed off while the Premier was making this announcement. Perhaps the minister in his response will advise the House if it's his intention to reannounce all of the initiatives that were in the Premier's Budget Address.
Mr. Speaker, family violence is ever present and it is a well-known fact that during times of economic recession, violence against women and children increases. It is indeed unfortunate that one can gauge how well an economy is doing by examining what is happening at the women's shelters. When people lose their jobs, when there is no hope, family tensions and family breakdowns increase. Those who pay the greatest price are women and children. The minister has stated an ambitious goal to stop family violence. Unfortunately, it is a goal that appears to be beyond the reach of his government. If this Liberal government really wants to do something to reduce family violence, it can do so by keeping its promise to rebuild the Yukon economy, something it hasn't yet started to do, almost a year after being elected to office. It will take the minister some time to discover that one of the best social programs is still a good, well-paying job.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The low blows from the opposition about this announcement - obviously, the budget hasn't been passed yet. I would hope that, when the budget does come up for approval, it will be supported by the members opposite because these items are in there.
It is the policy of this government to review programs to ensure that they continue to provide quality service to the public. It is also the policy of this government to ensure that taxpayers' money is being spent in a responsible manner, Mr. Speaker. That demonstrates leadership. I'm referring to quality public services like those of the women's shelters. It is the money from each and every taxpayer's pocket that must be carefully managed to ensure that the service is meeting the need.
This government has been fiscally responsible, and we have allocated an increase as indicated. We are ensuring the safety of our families and children as a priority of this government. We have increased our budget by at least one quarter of a million dollars as a major step in trying to, again, improve the lot of Yukoners.
I am disappointed that the members in their replies have talked about the increase not being enough. Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ with the member opposite, but the increase is the first increase they have had in the last eight years. That increase in funding is for the women's shelters that haven't had increases, as I said, for almost a decade.
Do they suggest that they'd like to cut funding to other groups like Hospice or Yukon Family Services? The motion brought forward by the Member for Klondike suggests that we should cut programs. I guess we can cut Teegatha'Oh Zheh. We can cut monies to the hospital. We can cut recruitment. I suppose we can cut salaries and support for foster parents. I'm not sure what the member opposite means by trying to re-jig our program. Our program is there to help Yukoners, and it's in the best interest of Yukoners that we all support it.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: FAS/FAE, service and diagnosis
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mr. Speaker, for the third time in just two weeks, we have another community group coming out and claiming that this minister is giving out information that is not accurate.
First of all, we had the Northern Film Industry Association; secondly, we had Positive Lives; and now we have the support group for people dealing with FAS/FAE.
Now, remembering that the usual remedy is three strikes and you're out, I'd like the minister to cut with the smiles and chuckles over there and answer this question: can the minister tell us why he would claim that the Yukon is a leader in FAS service and diagnosis, when the most knowledgeable stakeholder group says that that is not the case?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is always commenting on what the member opposite sees across the floor, like chuckling and laughing; there is almost some innuendo that the member opposite is trying to portray there.
Mr. Speaker, we don't use those kinds of responses from this side, but I guess the members opposite feel that that's a good way of responding to some of the issues that they see.
Mr. Speaker, we are the first and only jurisdiction in Canada to require mandatory reporting of FAS by trained doctors. Our trained doctors assess and diagnose FAS at the birth of the child. We are the first in the country.
Mr. Speaker, if the members opposite want to read more into that than what's really there, then that's up to them. We are very proud that we are able to do this. As a matter of fact, I'll give credit. The last government didn't even recognize FAS, but finally in their last year, they decided there was a problem, so they brought forth some of the issues that brought this about. So on one hand, we're supporting the initiative of the last government because it's a good one. We believe it should be recognized as it is - a very positive move.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I must say that I, along with the rest of the Yukon people, I'm sure - we're getting tired of these ministers just standing on their feet in the House, making things up. Because that's exactly what they're doing. Mr. Speaker. That's not open or accountable.
I have to say that when a minister stands on his feet and says that Yukon groups, which are out there needing support - and very much need that support -are not factual, it's an absolute disgrace.
Yesterday, we heard that the Tourism minister created a Yukon Film Commission. Her words exactly, and I quote, were, "We created a film commission." Well, Mr. Speaker, the facts just don't support that claim, and they don't support the Health minister's claim about diagnostic services for FAS.
Can the minister tell us what new Yukon money in this budget demonstrates a commitment to providing those services?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have never said that we have a diagnostic centre. Those are the words coming out of the opposition. I did say that we have a diagnostic resource with our doctors, who are identifying FAS. I am told by my colleagues that this was lobbied for very heavily by the opposition at that time - the Liberals. The NDP, at that juncture, decided to move ahead with it, because they knew they were getting beaten up about it.
I hear the opposition member's criticism. I hear it and I know that, for four years, the NDP did not recognize that there was a problem. We know it exists. We have moved ahead a few steps. From that point, we have set up a mandatory assessment of a child at birth by doctors who are trained to diagnose FAS. That's what we have done. At this point, that's our beginning.
For the member opposite to suggest that I am saying that groups out there are insignificant - I did not say that. The member himself - the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes - said that. I did not say it. The member opposite is putting words in my mouth, and I think that should be clarified for the record, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I would like to put words in the member's mouth, because if the member would listen, then the member would get some direction. Again, Mr. Speaker, I am asking for leadership, and that's what the government was elected for not even a year ago, to prove that they had some leadership. I would insist - and I absolutely insist - that they show that leadership and quit with the blame game. They are the government.
Tackling the FAS/FAE problem here will take more that just hosting conferences - much more than that. It needs a major commitment by this government. Now, the federal government has finally started restoring the money that they stripped from the health program many years ago. Will the minister now direct his department to use some of that CHST money to create an effective diagnostic team to work with health care professionals, social workers, teachers, and others who deal with this reality on a daily basis?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I support what the member is saying. I think that is one of our goals. We are not there yet. We have a lot of steps that we have to go through. We have many partners in this game. To say that conferences and all these other issues are not important, I don't agree with the member opposite. These are very important. This is where you get updated information so you can move ahead. We are working with our partners. We are sending approximately 44 people to a workshop - at least partially, some of them fully - in Saskatoon in May. We are going to help our Yukoners to attend this conference because we believe that that is very important. We are also very much part of the prairie/northern partnership, of which we have been a very integral part. I will say it again: the Yukon has done some great things in the area of FAS/FAE in the last year or two.
Also, Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member opposite that we are working on a planning commission right now for our workshop that is going to be held in 2002, which will be responsible for all the north. Some of the people on this group are from alcohol and drug services, the Child Development Centre, FASSY, Kaushee's, Department of Education, family and children's services, Justice, Kwanlin Dun - these are our partners. They meet on a regular basis and determine where we are going to go in the future. And we are very proud to work with our partners.
Question re: Teachers, collective bargaining
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. We, on this side of the House, are very relieved that the teachers have now voted to accept the tentative deal that was negotiated between the Public Service Commission and the bargaining unit. However, we also submit, Mr. Speaker, that it's time now that the minister set his sights in a forward manner. Not only did the Liberals, during the campaign, raise expectations with the teachers; they have now, through their mismanagement of the collective bargaining process in that regard, raised expectations with other unions.
Has this minister now spent the appropriate time with his colleague, the Minister of Finance, to ensure that a contingency has been set aside to be able to deal with the up-and-coming negotiations with such unions as the Yukon government union and also the nurses?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker. At least we did come to a collective agreement in the proper way, and I did hear what the teachers had to say with respect to the transgressions heaped upon them by the members opposite, both parties - the two-percent cutback and the inaction and lack of listening by the members of the former government.
In answer to the question from the Member for Watson Lake, I have been in discussion with members of the Public Service Commission addressing these needs as he has indicated, so we are already working on that.
Mr. Fentie: I'm to take it then that a contingency is in place for the up-and-coming negotiations with the other unions.
I can agree with the minister on one thing. On the radio this morning, the minister admitted that he has some fence-mending to do, and rightly so. This is the first time, under this minister and this government, that we have ever had a strike by our teachers, and little wonder, given the interference in the collective bargaining process.
Mr. Speaker, there was a mistake made and, surely, one of the quickest ways to mend fences is for this minister, instead of blaming previous governments that had nothing to do with this debacle in the collective bargaining process by this minister, to admit his mistake so that the other unions can understand and be comforted that this minister will never, never commit that same error. Will the minister admit to that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker. We have to build a whole new fence because the members opposite knocked it down, trashed it and used it for firewood.
The problems that the teachers are experiencing, Mr. Speaker, didn't just pop up within the last 10 months. It started back in the early 1990s with the rollback and inconsideration of the Yukon Party government of the day, and then it just rolled on. They weren't listened to, and they do have a tough job.
One thing that this government does have is vision for the public service, whether they be teachers or our own employees. It's going to take a lot of hard work, and listening and respecting what they have to say. We are showing leadership, and we are restoring confidence in government, confidence in the public service, and confidence of the public in the public service, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's a strange way to be restoring confidence and respect in the collective bargaining process, by doing the government bargaining through the local media. So the minister can blame the former governments all he chooses. The facts are that it was this minister's mismanagement of the process that forced the teachers into a strike, and we are very glad, as I pointed out, that that strike has now been averted.
Mr. Speaker, this minister jumped upon the chance of using the temporary teachers as the excuse to scuttle the collective bargaining process. This minister now has another opportunity to mend fences. Will this minister commit here today to amend the Education Act to enshrine temporary teachers into that act, in keeping with the former government's commitment to them to ensure that they receive all the same wages and benefits as teachers? Can the minister do so?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Again, this government is listening to the recommendations that are coming out of the Education Act. We are listening to the teachers, unlike the previous government, who never listened to what they were saying or what they were trying to express about how they were trying to deliver education programs in our schools.
Our primary concern is our students. We want to ensure that they get the best quality education. That will be provided by respecting those who give that education - namely our educators. So, we are listening to what they are saying. We will be. And we do respect the collective agreement process. We had to act on something that we had heard. It was the right thing to do. It was never meant - as the members opposite continually express - to challenge the collective bargaining process. We had to follow the process. That is one thing that we do on this side of the House. We do follow process, unlike both previous governments.
Question re: Teacher education program
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Education.
During the 2000 election campaign, the Yukon Party made a commitment to work in conjunction with Yukon College to develop a teacher training program open to all Yukon graduates to obtain their education degree here in the Yukon. The Yukon Liberal Party made a similar commitment, which reads as follows: "Enhance the teacher training capacity within Yukon to ensure that teacher shortages in southern Canada do not adversely affect our children's education."
Can the minister advise the House when this commitment is going to be fulfilled, in view of the fact that this is the Liberal government's second budget and there's still no action?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do appreciate the question, Mr. Speaker, because we are working on that. If the Member for Klondike would read the budget, he would see there is a line item in there that directly addresses that specific issue. So we are working toward our goal. We recognize that we have quality individuals here and that, with the year's teachers' training, we will be able to fulfill and fill in those specialized teacher capacities that we do need in the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: This line item in the budget does nothing to address the campaign promise, Mr. Speaker.
Currently, there is the Yukon native teachers education program, which is only open to First Nation students, but there is nothing for other students in Yukon wishing to enter the teaching profession here in the Yukon. This is one time when a two-tiered system would be welcome. The minister is creating it all over in this Department of Education - a two-tiered education system, and, in fact, a three-tiered.
Will the minister give us a date when this two-tiered teacher training program will actually begin? When will it be implemented?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the member opposite, first of all, doesn't listen or doesn't like the answers that are provided by this side of the House. Now he's encouraging flip-flop; before he didn't want flip-flop. I don't know how many tiers of education he is peeling in his mind right now. God only knows that we'll probably have a dozen by the time this session ends, but we are working with the college, and we are working to address the needs of providing that service within the college.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the record is quite specific. There's a two-tiered education system here in the Yukon - one for rural Yukon, one for Whitehorse. And there's a two-tiered system in Whitehorse - a better education system delivered through the Catholic school than through the balance of the public school, Mr. Speaker.
I am growing increasingly concerned over the backlog of Liberal election commitments that aren't being met. This is just one of them, Mr. Speaker. When will this teacher-training program for non-First Nation individuals begin in the Yukon? When is it going to start?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the expectation is amazing. One thing the members opposite seem to forget is that the platform we laid out was for a three- to four-year period. Unfortunately, they are expecting miracles within the first 10 months and not understanding that it takes time to heal the wounds, the abuse of the teachers, to address the needs, to listen to what they have to say. Unlike the previous government that was happy with the status quo in our education system, this government is moving and providing leadership. The Education Act is a very positive implementation toward that direction and we do have partners in education with our students and educators.
We have vision in this government and it is to restore the confidence of the parents in our education system, and we will do this by ensuring that the Department of Education's primary goal is in educating and the welfare of our students, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Global warming studies, funding cuts
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the same minister, in his other capacity.
Now, Yukoners know that climate change is affecting the Yukon Territory and Canada's north in many dramatic and disturbing ways. A trend was established under the direction of the previous government. That trend started with the creation of climate-change funding and continued with increased funding toward the study of climate change in the north.
Can the Minister of Renewable Resources please explain to the House why he has decided to reverse that trend and why he is slashing his department's budget with respect to global warming?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, we haven't changed that trend.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the budget speaks for itself. The trend has been reversed. I would urge the minister to review his own department's budget.
Now, there were several initiatives that were started and cultivated under the previous government with respect to the study of climate change. Those initiatives were part of a greater vision. Our vision was to establish the Yukon as a world centre of excellence for the study of climate change. But, all this minister has done is hold the line. He is not moving forward from where we started. There is no vision.
Mr. Speaker, can the minister please explain why he was unsuccessful in his attempts to convince his colleagues of the importance of increasing the climate-change budget for the good of our territory?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Kluane has just indicated that at least we are maintaining the status quo. In his earlier question he said that we were falling back, so at least he is reading a little bit more into it. Probably if he reads it again, he will find out that we are doing more than the previous government on these issues.
I know that we have been criticized for travel outside, but with the environment ministers meetings that I have attended, I have had the opportunity to sit and chat with Minister Goodale, who will be up here for the climate change conference that we are sponsoring up here in the very near future - as a matter of fact, on Monday. We have already taken initiatives. Our travel outside does encourage people to come to Yukon to have a first glance, and we welcome the opportunity to have a heart to heart with Minister Goodale when he is here to address these needs more specifically.
Mr. McRobb: The only thing increasing under this minister is the level of political rhetoric. I would suggest that the handlers in the gallery today should get together with the minister after Question Period and try to urge him to deal with the substance at hand instead of just engaging in political rhetoric.
We know that Minister Goodale is coming to town, and his department has millions of dollars of funding for climate change. I would ask the minister, when he is on his feet, to indicate how much of that money is for the Yukon.
Aside from that, all we are hearing from this minister is the same old story, the same old excuses - pointing the finger at members of the opposition across the way and refusing to take leadership. They are government now.
Now, it's time that this minister recognized the seriousness of this problem and the opportunity for the Yukon as well. Will the minister do more than just hold the line and build on the initiative to establish the Yukon as a world centre of excellence for the study of global warming?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to review Hansard for the comments that the member opposite just made, because for the first time he has acknowledged that the government is on this side and that we are the government. So, I do appreciate that acknowledgement.
We are taking leadership, we are talking directly with the ministers of Northern Affairs and with the Minister of NRCan, and they are responding to the needs and recognizing the needs of Yukon.
We already have money on the northern Climate Change Centre and we are going to build on that. That is already establishing a hub here, Mr. Speaker, and we are actively pursuing, along with counterpart ministers in the N.W.T. and Nunavut, that they recognize that we are advanced in areas of having a locale to establish a node for the north, meaning that it will become a centre for the exchange of climate issues relative directly to the north.
Question re: Teslin, budget allotment for community
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, today I have a constituency question. It's for the Minister of Finance, if I may.
I have been looking through the budget and can only find a $7,000 commitment in a line item to the community of Teslin, and I believe it's for the Department of Renewable Resources and it's very likely for office equipment or a computer of some sort.
Mr. Speaker, $7,000 is an absolutely insulting figure to the Town of Teslin. It doesn't reflect what the community had asked for from this Liberal government, and let me say also that this Liberal government came twice to the village of Teslin in the last couple of months. They came once with the whole crew - the bells and whistles were out - and they did community tours. Then, as a reactionary item to the budget, they came out with just a smaller crew.
Now, I have just heard from the Minister of Education that we listen. We listen to the people. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to point out that listening to the people -
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question?
Mr. Keenan: Certainly I will, Mr. Speaker. I'd just like to continue that it alludes to action. So I'd like to ask the minister if he could explain why my community's needs are being ignored in this budget.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, the member is wrong on a number of points. We committed, as we were sworn into office and during the election campaign almost a year ago, to reintroduce the community Cabinet tours - a very strongly supported and appreciated initiative. We have already delivered on that by travelling to Ross River, Faro and Teslin, and we are working with other communities in terms of our next community tour.
The member is also wrong in his suggestion that the budget tour to Teslin was some kind of an afterthought; that is not correct. We visited all Yukon communities as a caucus, and the community of Teslin is no exception to that.
The member is also wrong in suggesting that this government doesn't listen. In fact, we heard very clearly from the community of Teslin on a number of initiatives that they desired to see.
The member is also wrong in that the budget does not benefit all of Yukon. It does. It benefits all of Yukon. Community needs are addressed in overall programming, in terms of fire smart, Project Yukon, the arts fund, highway infrastructure, rebuilding Yukon's infrastructure in our highways, dealing with things like sewage treatment centres and recreation centres. The budget does address needs of Yukoners, and I, for one, am very proud to support it.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I could sure tell the excitement in Teslin when they found out they were getting a new computer in Renewable Resources. Everybody was just jumping up and down with glee and shaking their hands with excitement.
Mr. Speaker, I am not wrong. I live in the community; I go to the community - not just for political reasons, but I live there.
I'd also like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that government is not just about tours, and it's not just about reviews; it's about action. And I would say that that is why the Finance minister herself should do the budget consultation and not have a stand-in doing that for her. She needs to hear firsthand what the priorities of Yukon communities are and what the people are saying.
Now, most of the things that the village has asked for come under Community and Transportation Services, so I'll redirect my question to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Can the minister explain why the items the Teslin Village Council asked for are not included in this budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would point out to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that, once we're finished with general debate on the budget, we move into Community and Transportation Services. I would be more than pleased to go into great detail on his question then. I think that would be the appropriate place.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, you know what would be appropriate? If we could just get one minister on that side of the House to stand up and quit with the propaganda and the blame game, and just lay it on the table. Provide a little leadership here, Mr. Speaker. That's all that we're asking for. It's disgusting.
Just to refresh the minister's memory, the village wanted the walkway finished. They wanted a tourism pullout at the bridge. They wanted a sewer upgrade to the village lagoon. And you know what else? They want telephone services in their community, so that they can participate in the economy and the social activities that a telephone provides. Those were the questions that were asked of government.
So I would like to ask the minister this: will the minister give her assurances that these items will be in the fall capital budget if they aren't included in revotes this spring? May I have the assurance of the minister on that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes well knows, we are in the capital planning process right now. So, the member is not going to get a commitment for anything from me at this point. There are a finite number of dollars that we are dealing with and an awful lot of projects demanding our attention.
I am well aware of the wishes of the community of Teslin, and we will be dealing with those as quickly as possible, where appropriate.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Ms. Tucker: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that the government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, March 13, 2001.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon everyone. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute long recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee of the Whole will be discussing, in general debate, Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, I believe you have the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate yesterday evening, Mr. Chair, we were dealing with the way that this novice Liberal government was creating certainty in the economic areas of Yukon. We dealt with the Alaska Highway pipeline project that the Liberals are hanging not just their hat on, but their entire wardrobe as the be-all and end-all as to supporting development in the Yukon. We know that that is not going to be just a short-term boom for Yukon, if indeed it does occur.
It's kind of interesting that the only area in the entire route of the proposed Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline that has been established is through the Yukon. The area through Alaska has not been determined, or, other than being mapped out, it has not been secured, and the right-of-way south of Yukon has not been set aside and secured.
The other area that's quite interesting is the Premier's position on the northern offshore pipeline and it going under the ocean. It could cause some concern should it erupt. All the minister has to do is look at the proposed Foothills' plan that takes the Alaska Highway pipeline under the lake in Kluane for some 10 miles, Mr. Chair. No consideration is being given to that exposure to environmental damage.
But, we went from there to forestry. The biggest impediment there is that this Liberal government is failing to use that wonderful working relationship - that close-knit, working relationship - between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals to obtain timber harvest agreements for southeast Yukon, which would put people back to work in the southern part of the Yukon - indeed, all around the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
But oil and gas, forestry - and with mining, we looked at the impediments to attracting mining to the Yukon, which are right at the door of this government, in that the Yukon protected areas strategy is flawed in the change in direction that has come to take place under this government. The previous government didn't follow the rules; this government is changing them and imposing a new set of conditions. There are 28 groups. Six of those groups on the committee are from the resource sector. Until such time as there is a balance between the groups, we're not going to move ahead. In fact, the resource sector is so overwhelmed and inundated by the position of the environmentalist lobby here in the Yukon that they virtually abandoned their representation on the review panel.
That in itself is very unfortunate.
If we start looking at some of the other areas where we have some serious problems, that is in the health and welfare area of this budget. There doesn't seem to be any thrust by this government to address the serious problem of drug and alcohol abuse and FAS/FAE, other than to create a whole new department of government at some $2-point-something million. Under the existing banners, programs could have been delivered, but they have all been taken away from NGOs, and facilities have been closed down and brought in-house.
At the end of the day, who suffers? Who suffers, Mr. Chair? It's the Yukon people who suffer. Yes, we will have created more government jobs and positions, but we haven't addressed the needs of the FAS/FAE community, and we firmly, firmly entrenched more and more government so that it's getting harder and harder to look inwards at how we're accomplishing the goals set out for them. Given that when the programs are at arm's length, in a non-government organization, that NGO is constantly under the scrutiny of government and government officials.
When the programs are brought in-house, there's a tremendous amount of reluctance on the part of government to look at itself. It doesn't want to do that, so the programs just grow and multiply and compound each other. They do not complement each other, and there are some very capable people employed within the Department of Health and Social Services but, at the end of the day, they're not being given the opportunity to deliver the programs. They're probably too caught up in the paperwork, and Yukoners are suffering.
We start looking at the two-tiered health care system that this government is implementing, maintaining and compounding, Mr. Speaker. We only have to look at the situation for expectant mothers who, from all rural areas of the Yukon, are required - virtually required - to be in Whitehorse a couple of weeks before their due date, to give birth to their child here in Whitehorse. The only Yukon community that's an exception to that is Watson Lake. It has a status hospital, more than one doctor, and 24-hour nurses. No other Yukon community has hospital status. We have nursing stations, and the Minister of Health and Social Services is expecting these mothers to come to Whitehorse, then virtually insulting them by telling them, for the first four days, "We don't pay you anything but, after that, we'll provide you with $30 a day, but you must have receipts and send them in to us."
That puts a tremendous strain on the resources of a lot of Yukon families from rural Yukon.
That's not fair. That's not fair at all.
When is this situation going to change? When are the election promises put forward by this Liberal government going to be focused on, and when are Yukoners going to realize the benefits of the Liberals addressing some of their campaign promises? We haven't seen too much indication of any of them, Mr. Chair.
If you look at the Yukon Party and the suggestions that came forward - one was to re-establish the Crossroads in-patient drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre right here in Whitehorse and the other was to put together a trained team of psychologists, personal counsellors, social workers and health officials to provide services to Yukon schools, in order to provide support for FAS/FAE students and their families. It was to investigate the feasibility of a special group home for adults with FAS/FAE. Contrast that to even the program in the Steele Building over here that the government says is going to be closing for transients, because there is not enough demand placed on it. If the transients want accommodations for the night, I guess they have to go between nine and five, Monday to Friday, to some government agency and get a voucher to check into one of the hotels they have a contract with.
So much for these programs and so much for program delivery.
The Minister of Health says he will be saving money by not operating 24 hours a day and just moving these individuals to a hotel. But will they receive the treatment necessary in a hotel room? Not very likely, Mr. Chair.
So, where do Yukoners who have problems and difficulties end up? It's a sad day for Yukoners when the Department of Health and Social Services is spending more and more and more, and accomplishing less and less and less. The saving grace is that Yukon's population is dropping. More and more people are choosing to move somewhere else, and they are.
The minister's statement, which I certainly have to agree with, Mr. Chair, is that her way is the highway. It's either the highway to Inuvik to look for a job, or the Alaska Highway south to look for a job, because the opportunities here in the Yukon that are being presented and provided by this Yukon Liberal government are few and far between. I guess one could attach themselves to the entourage that the Premier has with her to travel around, but I guess the prerequisites are carrying a Liberal Party card and making suitable donations to the Liberal Party.
Other than the tremendous increase in expenses for the Executive Council Office - a lot of the expenses that are unlikely to produce results and benefits for Yukoners - it's interesting to see how the Liberals have moved things around in ECO. We know the costs have gone up. They have gone up alarmingly. We do know that a lot of the functions that used to take place within ECO have been moved elsewhere.
So what do we have at the end of the day? It's one of those old shell games, where everything is kind of moved around. Our responsibility in opposition is to hold the government accountable and we have to try and follow those little shells and find out what has been placed under which one of them.
My question to the Premier is this: when is the Premier going to be addressing the inequities in the two-tiered standard that her government is maintaining and promoting in our health care system? When is that going to be addressed, given the tremendous amount of dollars that remained in surplus in the budget when they came to office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the question was one of those double-edged swords. I think that that is the best way to describe it without making rude references to the type of question.
This government does not have a policy of inequity. While there are issues within the health care system - within the entire Yukon to be addressed - on that point the member and I agree. To suggest that we are going to start to address something that doesn't exist, except in the eyes of the member opposite, is an impossible question to answer.
This government is addressing the health care needs with additional health care funding in this budget. We're not going to immediately address every single need that is out there. We are working on meeting the priority needs of Yukoners. One of those priorities was that we would address the very serious issue of substance abuse and addictions in the Yukon, and we are doing that.
The member's question is not within the realm of the possible to answer. I do, however, have answers to questions asked by the leader of the official opposition.
The member asked if there have been any changes in the reporting structure, or any planned. There have been no changes of any significance that members are not aware of. They are aware of the transfer of French language services from Executive Council Office to Government Services. Information was tabled on that in the fall sitting, but there have been no decisions made on any other organizational changes.
The Member for Klondike asked a question on Tuesday last on how much goods and services tax was collected by the federal government from the sale of heating fuel in the Yukon. The approximate amount is $1,193,040. GST is levelled against heating fuel in Yukon. Some of this is sold to commercial establishments, so some of that figure receives a GST input tax credit. We have no idea as to how that differentiates out - which is commercial and which is home.
That is the information that was asked for by the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, further to that request for information on the GST on fuel, there was also the GST on electricity, collected by the feds. Could the minister just elaborate on the method used by First Nations. I am given to understand that a lot of the First Nations are GST exempt on heating oil and electricity, and it's not in the same manner as the businesses, where you pay it and receive a tax credit. Could the minister just outline how this works and how it came into place? I can't follow it through, given the umbrella final agreement and the conditions imposed there, but I am given to understand that there are some special conditions or provisions being made, currently, with the federal Liberal government to rebate GST in these areas.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That is a very difficult question to attempt to answer. First of all, the federal government has responsibility for the GST, and the member is talking about how First Nation governments work with the federal government. So, not only is it not within my jurisdiction or area of responsibility to answer, but it's commenting on two other governments and their relationship with one another and their reporting relationship. However, that being said, I will address the question and attempt to find out the information for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Where I am heading with that question it that this same kind of condition might well apply to all Yukoners and might benefit all Yukoners. I would just like to know what precipitated this rebate and how it works. Perhaps there is a way that the balance of the Yukon population can access this kind of a program or plan, or come to some suitable arrangement with the federal government on a rebate of GST on heating oils and electricity.
Now, given that the Premier is here to represent all Yukoners, I would think that it is a wonderful opportunity for her to (1) demonstrate her understanding of an issue, (2) promote an issue that is going to benefit Yukoners and save them money, and (3) given this wonderful relationship that we're led to believe exists between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals, she might approach the federal Minister of Finance and receive a like benefit for all Yukoners. So that's exactly where I am heading. An understanding of the basic issue and the fundamentals of how it is rebated to the First Nations would give one an understanding as to how to make the approach to the federal government to rebate it and benefit all Yukoners.
I am sure the minister can see where I am coming from and hopefully she can understand the benefits that might accrue to all Yukon. I am asking her to take up that challenge and see what we can accomplish, Mr. Chair. Our party would certainly support such an initiative.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already indicated to the member opposite that I will find out the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that answer.
I have a number of requests in to the Minister of Health and Social Services on some of the programs that he is delivering through his office. They're very serious constituency concerns and, to date, I haven't even had the courtesy of a response, and I would ask the Premier to approach her Cabinet colleague and see if these issues could be addressed.
There's one issue of a constituent in my riding afflicted with hepatitis C - a single mother of two, who has been cut off of social assistance as a consequence of receiving a small inheritance, and she clearly indicated to the department that she doesn't have access to this money. It's locked in some sort of a fund. Yet, as a consequence of her having access, it's cut off. I have approached the Minister of Health. Could I ask the Premier, on behalf of this constituent, to make representation to the Minister of Health and see if something can be accomplished? It's a very, very serious concern.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: All ministers on this side of the House have worked diligently with all members on constituency issues. If there is a matter where there has not been, for some reason or another, an immediate response forthcoming, then I'm certain that the Minister of Health is looking into it and will provide and work with the member opposite. Constituents' concerns are, first and foremost, all of our responsibility, and this side of the House endeavours to deal with them as rapidly as possible.
If there is a difficulty, I'm certain the Minister of Health will deal with it promptly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, just to clarify the record, Mr. Chair, what I heard the Premier say is that she's leaving it with the Minister of Health and Social Services. She's not even prepared to pursue it or ask the Minister of Health to expedite a speedy answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the member opposite heard me say was that this side of the House works very hard with all members in this Legislature on constituency concerns. We try our best to resolve them. What the member opposite also heard me say is that I'm quite confident the Minister of Health is already working on the specific issue that the member just raised, and I am quite confident the Minister of Health will respond forthwith.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'll hold the minister to her word, Mr. Chair, because I certainly haven't seen that demonstrated by all ministers. Some have been very forthright and very diligent in any requests posed to them, and the responses have been very, very quick to return, and it is very much appreciated by the opposition. That appears not to be the case with the Minister of Health and Social Services. There is a problem there, Mr. Chair. As Premier, it's only fair that the opposition brings it to her attention and that she addresses the shortcomings within her Cabinet caucus. That's all that's being asked.
Mr. McRobb: I just have a question for the Premier in general debate on this budget.
I would like to know if this Liberal government has any process internally to foster the creation and tracking of economic programs or environment-related programs.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think the review of economic programs in the audit on the community development fund speaks for itself. We did review them. I am at a loss as to what more in the way of results the member opposite is looking for.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I don't think the Premier understood the question. The question was this: does this Liberal government have any internal process to foster the creation and development and monitoring of initiatives related to the economy or the environment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not trying to be dull. I do not understand the member opposite's question. If the member opposite is asking if we have an environment wherein our public service feels quite confident and comfortable about raising suggestions for new programs, either related to the sustainable communities initiatives or a new economic program to foster some kind of initiative, then I am very confident that the public service feels, absolutely, that suggestions are welcomed by this government. If that's what the member opposite means by "foster", yes, we foster a climate of respect and innovation throughout the public service, not simply in those two areas.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, it's obvious there's nothing going on inside this Liberal government in those areas, and that's fine. I think the Premier's response speaks for itself. Thank you very much.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Fairclough: I wrote a letter to the Premier in regard to travel for Cabinet offices and haven't received anything to date about the amount of dollars for that travel and where and so on. I'm wondering if I can get that information before we go into ECO?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I apologize to the member opposite. I signed the letter; I'm not sure what the holdup is. I will find out where it may have gone astray in the mail system, or what's happened to it, but I did sign that off, and the member most certainly will have it before we proceed to Executive Council Office.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Then we'll proceed to departments. We'll continue with Community and Transportation Services.
Community and Transportation Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on Community and Transportation Services?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Please allow me to introduce the 2001-02 main estimate for the Department of Community and Transportation Services. As the main estimate shows, the department plans to spend $69,765,000 in operation and maintenance, and $46,180,000 in capital. The department also plans to recover $2,887,000 of its operation and maintenance expenditure, and $27,369,000 of its capital expenditure.
Revenues are estimated at $6,421,000.
Excluding planned recoverable expenditures, the department's combined operation and maintenance and capital net estimate is $85,689,000. Revenue to be collected by the department is estimated at $6,421,000, which is about 2.3 percent higher than the 2000-01 forecast.
The department's main estimate provides funding in support of the development of Yukon communities through municipal financing, funding for sports and recreation, and various public health and safety programs that benefit unincorporated rural communities as well.
The operation and maintenance estimate includes a total of $19,958,000 in transfer payments to be paid as grants and contributions. Of this total transfer payment, $11,817,000 will be paid directly to municipalities under the comprehensive Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act. In addition, $3,734,000 is estimated for payments to municipalities for grants-in-lieu of property taxes.
Investing in infrastructure is one of the priorities of this government. As we all know, with the exception of the Shakwak project funding, which is provided by the United States government, highway construction funding has been in decline over the last few years. This budget proposes to reverse that trend by starting to increase the Yukon government's capital funding in this area. Obviously, more needs to be done in the future but we believe that increases provided in this budget are the beginning of a move in the right direction.
In addition, almost $2 million over and above the 2000-01 forecast figure has been allocated for highway maintenance. We committed to the people of the Yukon that we would increase funding for highway maintenance, and we are fulfilling that commitment. The focus on infrastructure construction activities and on effective maintenance and operation of roads and airports will enhance safe and efficient movement of people and goods, which will lead to an improved economic environment for Yukoners and Yukon businesses. The capital main estimate includes a number of important projects, both in terms of the level of funding and the nature of the projects. The department has continued to support and has allocated substantial capital funding for municipal projects. Included in this are the Dawson recreation project, the Whitehorse swimming pool, and the new Carmacks recreation centre. We will continue to support the land claims settlement and self-government implementation processes by working closely with the land claims secretariat.
I would now like to identify specific highlights of the department's main estimates. On the operation and maintenance side, in line with its mandate to strengthen safe and efficient movement of people and goods in the territory, the department has allocated $41,734,000 for highway maintenance, airport operations and administration of related regulatory responsibilities.
I will just point out a few significant changes, including an increase of $118,000 in the last supplementary. A total increase of $1,375,000 is provided to enhance highway maintenance activities such as brush and weed control, gravel resurfacing, BST patching and line painting.
The airport's operation estimate has been increased by $90,000 to meet medevac requirements with respect to snow clearing. Provision in the amount of $420,000 is made to cover the impact of heating and vehicle fuel cost increases across the department. Of this, $354,000 is for highway maintenance.
To meet continued municipal and community affairs commitments in the areas of public health and safety, land availability and support for Yukon communities, a total of $25,244,000 is allocated for operation and maintenance.
Major components of the municipal and community affairs operation and maintenance budget include the comprehensive municipal grant at $11,817,000; grant-in-lieu of taxes at $3,734,000; the homeowner grant at $2,367,000; and contributions toward sports and community recreation at $1,805,000. The Association of Yukon Communities will receive $100,000. A grant in the amount of $69,000 is also allocated for various community local advisory area operations.
Within the total contribution estimate under sports and recreation, funds are provided for Yukon recreation groups, sports local authorities, core funding to Sport Yukon, and Yukon sport governing bodies. The sports and recreation program budget has also been increased to provide new funding for the implementation of the active living strategy for $80,000, to support Yukon's participation in Arctic Winter Games 2002, which will be held in Nûk, Greenland, and Nunavut, at $490,000, and the development of Yukon aboriginal sport and recreation at $40,000.
On the capital side, funding is allocated in support of highway construction projects, community facilities, public health, roads and streets and for airport improvement projects. The department has allocated the capital main estimate based on program priorities and needs identified by communities. $32,892,000 has been allocated for the continued improvement of the territory's transportation infrastructure.
We continue to believe capital investment in transportation infrastructure provides the stimulus for private sector investments in resource development and tourism, which in turn will permit long-term economic growth and increased levels of employment. In the short term, these projects will generate significant employment in the road building industry. As such, Yukon government funding for highway construction has been increased by about $1.6 million compared to the current fiscal year forecast. In comparison to the 2000-01 main estimate, the 2001-02 main estimate for highway construction is higher by about $2.3 million.
The Alaska Highway will continue to see major reconstruction under the Shakwak agreement. $23.5 million is allocated for fiscal 2001-02. The program to complete the outstanding reconstruction of the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction will commence. The start of reconstruction of the Champagne revision, completion of lighting improvements and overhead signs at Haines Junction and improvements at the intersection on the Kathleen Lake Road will be done at an estimated cost of $3.2 million. Considerable construction work will take place on the Campbell Highway and on pavement and bridge rehabilitation, at an estimated cost of about $2.2 million. Funding in the amount of $400,000 has also been allocated for the rural road upgrade program.
Funding of $1.35 million is provided for airport projects: $1.3 million for phase 2 construction of the new water main to the Whitehorse airport in partnership with the City of Whitehorse, and $50,000 for airport airside improvements at the Pelly Crossing aerodrome.
$3.6 million has been allocated for a land development program. While carrying out this commitment, the department will continue to address environmental and land claims issues associated with all land development projects.
In terms of specific land-related planned capital work, Mr. Chair, the primary focus in residential land development will include planning and/or construction of country residential, rural residential and urban residential lots in the Whitehorse area.
Site identification, feasibility analysis and consultation work will continue for the development of recreational lots in the areas of Pine Lake near Rancheria, Little Teslin Lake, Braeburn Lake and other locations to be identified following consultation. Industrial land development will take place in the Whitehorse area to construct and release 10 to 12 lots.
The various projects within our capital estimates of $2.97 million in community services, $1.9 million in public health, roads and streets, and $2.2 million in recreation facilities reflect our commitment to support all communities in attaining improved quality of life and our continued effort to recognize and address their needs.
The department will continue working closely with Dawson City with respect to their recreation and sewage treatment projects. In 2001-02, Dawson City will receive $2.9 million for the recreation project. This is in addition to the funding already advanced through the capital funding agreement.
The capital funding for the sports and recreation program contains a $1-million contribution funding each for the Whitehorse swimming pool and new Carmacks recreation centre, and $100,000 for the completion of insulation and air exchange work for the Ross River recreation centre.
The community services branch will continue to work with and assist communities in community-based planning work. In areas of public health, roads and streets, we will continue to provide service to unincorporated communities with respect to water supply, treatment and storage, sewage treatment and disposal, flood and erosion control, road and street upgrades, and various other community facility improvements. Significant undertakings in this area include the construction of primary and secondary storage facilities for the Carcross sewage treatment at $500,000; construction of the new Burwash sewage lagoon at $200,000; solid waste management and disposal facility improvements at $340,000; and $315,000 for improvements and BST of Carcross roads, as well as an upgrade of sections of the sawmill road at Ross River.
The public safety program will receive continued support - $412,000 is allocated for required fire protection equipment purchases, the assessment and design of renovations for the Pelly Crossing fire hall and for the purchase of a fire truck to add to our existing fleet.
Mr. Chair, as I stated earlier, the department's main estimate reflects the continued commitment to advance economic improvement and the well-being of Yukoners by investing in infrastructure, by supporting municipalities, by providing municipal-type services and facilities to unincorporated communities, and by making contributions to the land claim settlement and self-government implementation initiatives.
Mr. Chair, I've had the opportunity to visit with many of the C&TS departmental staff all over the territory in the last 10 months. They are a very dedicated group of people. I would like to thank all of them for their daily efforts to make the Yukon a better place to live, and I'll now be pleased to answer questions specific to the tabled departmental budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thank you for that, and I would like to thank the minister for acknowledging the hard work, dedication and the effort shown by all the people within this department. From grader operators to the deputy minister by her side, everybody does a remarkable job, and all Yukoners are extremely appreciative of that.
As we all know, this is a very important department. It's the heart and soul of many communities in the territory. It affects people's lives. It affects their homes through building regulations. It affects their streets through maintenance and construction. It affects services in their communities like fire fighting, and so on. It branches out into other aspects, like property assessment and taxation, and into larger issues, like airports, and sport and recreation, active living.
This is one of the broadest departments in this government.
One thing that we don't do in here often enough is recognize the efforts of the hard-working people in the departments such as Community and Transportation Services.
Now, I have a number of questions in general debate, and I am sure that the leader of the third party does as well. Before we get started, I would like to ask for some information that was outstanding from the briefing session that we had with the department. Specifically, I requested a list of outstanding projects on the road reconstruction project on the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. The minister, in her speech, referenced one of those sections, the Champagne revision. We all know that the other projects are on the shelf. The engineering and planning work has all been done. It has been costed out. It is that type of information that I requested in the briefing meeting, and nothing on it has been provided. Can the minister undertake to get that information to us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I apologize that it hasn't already been provided. I thought that everything that had been asked for in that briefing had been sent. I apologize.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, that's fine, Mr. Chair. Quite a few details come out at those meetings, and perhaps it just slipped between the cracks.
I would like to go next to the objectives of the department. Has anything changed regarding the departmental objectives?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, we did make some changes to more clearly reflect what the department was doing.
Mr. McRobb: Would the minister mind outlining what those changes are for us, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, since I don't have a copy of the previous objectives, I don't recall exactly what was changed. I mean, I can read them into the record, if that's what the member is asking, but I don't think that's what he's asking.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us some idea what objectives changed for this department? I'm not asking for all the objectives, just the ones that changed.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: One that did change is that we made specific reference to Connect Yukon, as it is a project within the responsibility area of this department. I would have to go and find a previous budget statement to do a direct line-by-line comparison, though.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I would like the minister to undertake to provide us with any information, either by written response or whatever, with regard to any other changes that might need explanation. We understand the change with respect to Connect Yukon. If there are any other changes, could she get back to us with an explanation? Do I see her nodding her head? Yes. That's fine.
Mr. Chair, I would like to go to the area of highways. It seems to be a hot issue recently. I would ask the minister what the grand total is in this budget for spending on highway construction this year.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Shakwak project, which is non-YTG funded, is, as I said in my opening remarks, $23,500,000. Capital expenditures on the Alaska Highway amount to $3,233,000 - on the Klondike Highway, $135,000; on the Campbell Highway, $900,000; on the Tagish Road, $200,000; and on the Silver Trail, $15,000. As well, there is pavement rehabilitation for $750,000. There is some work on bridges and some of the smaller highways for $535,000. There is $400,000 for other roads, which, as I said, is the rural roads upgrade program. That's the total for the highway construction, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: How much of an increase over last year's totals does that amount represent in terms of dollars?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Last year's totals were $4,579,000 in forecast spending on highway construction. This year, it's $6,168,000. I'm sorry I don't have the percentage.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the number I see in the budget for 2000-01 forecast is $32,768,000. Would the minister not agree that's the number of highway construction dollars spent in this current year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I had not mentioned the 2000-01 forecast figure of $25,100,000 for the Shakwak project. I'd have to sit here and add up the column. But the member, I think, is looking at the page for the transportation division, and the first two figures on that page for transportation facilities and transportation planning and engineering are not considered to be part of highway construction. Also aviation and airports are in there, as well. So those three figures need to be removed from the $32,768,000 that the Member for Kluane mentioned.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Chair, obviously the airport line does require separate consideration, but as far as the Shakwak and all the other projects go, that's all part of reconstruction for highways in the territory. I think the answer we're looking for is the totals are very similar this year compared with the coming budget year.
Mr. Chair, I think that needs pointing out, given the message coming from this government regarding the restoration of highway funding. This relates back to about a year ago, or more, if we look back to messages from the Liberals when they were in opposition, holding the previous government accountable for spending in the area of highways. The issue at that time was how to recover from some of the transfer payment cuts dealt to us here in the Yukon by the federal government. The highways construction budget was a casualty in the larger picture and the money had to come from somewhere.
I'm sure that the members opposite, now that they have been in government almost a year, can appreciate a little better than they did when they were in opposition that they can't just call for money to be spent and pull it out of the air. It has got to come from somewhere. And when the federal government cuts the transfers to the Yukon Territory, either those areas are done away with or cut, or the money has to come from somewhere else.
I think we could all agree, Mr. Chair, how important it is to maintain our health system in this territory and it was a very tough decision for the previous government to do that, to maintain health care spending.
One of the areas where there was some give was in the highways reconstruction budget.
Now, this wouldn't have been necessary had the federal government treated us a little bit better, but unfortunately it didn't and we can't revise history, Mr. Chair. But for this government to continually resort to pointing the finger at us while patting themselves on the back for restoring the budget to the highway reconstruction area, needs to be called on. I'm calling them on it now.
It needs to be explained to Yukoners what happened, Mr. Chair. Furthermore, there are other areas where we spent and the Liberals have cut. Look at the rural roads program. It's reduced to only 40 percent of what it has been in the past. The Liberals cut $600,000 out of the rural roads upgrade program. Look at the Tagish Road, Mr. Chair. It has been reduced from $906,000 down to $200,000. Look at the Campbell Highway, from $1,127,000 to $900,000.
Even work on bridges on the numbered highways is down to $535,000 from $671,000. There are all kinds of reductions to road reconstruction in this budget, yet the Liberal government wants to take credit for restoring highways funding.
One of the first things they did was issue, in the fall, a press release patting themselves on the back for fulfilling their commitment to restoring highway funding. Well, there's a press release even on the government Web site to that effect, Mr. Chair. Just look back, I believe, to October 2000 and you'll find it. Right on the main YTG Web site, under "News Releases", it's there.
Now, what gave cause for them to claim victory in fulfilling their commitments to highway funding? Well, about $379,000 to reopen the Alaska Highway near Kluane Lake because of a mudslide - it was emergency funding that had to be spent, and anybody would have done it - and to clear some of the vegetation alongside the highways, which was, indeed, a traffic hazard, even though that work was done too late in the year. It should have been acted upon in midsummer, not the end of the summer.
Well, Mr. Chair, that is what the $379,000 went to. Yet, this government claimed victory that it had restored highways funding and issued a press release that said it had fulfilled its promise. Well, again, part of our job is to hold the government accountable and try to keep them honest. That is a major undertaking. We are not always successful.
We took issue with that statement they made back in the fall. Since then, they have changed their tune a little bit. But they are not claiming complete victory here for restoring highway funding. But there are other commitments that we must hold them accountable for. Some of the recent ones deal with the restoration of the highway budget and the commitments pursued yesterday in Question Period. Now, the minister clearly said on the record, back on December 6, I believe it was - only three months ago - that the $30 million worth of highway projects between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, which are the last remaining projects for reconstruction on the entire Alaska Highway in the Yukon Territory, would be completed within three years. That was three months ago. We see a commitment of approximately 10 percent of the total required in this budget. In the balance of that three-year period, we can expect two more Liberal budgets. Well, if the allocation is evenly divided, that is about $13.5 million per year. When added to about $25 million of Shakwak, that increases the highway spending on that north Alaska Highway section to over $38 million a year.
Now, is it fair to load them up that high, in such a short period of time, making Yukoners wait an extra year to see those improvements? Or, is it fair to expect this Liberal government to fulfil its commitments, as it said on the record only three months ago?
Mr. Chair, it's questions like these that will be taken into account in the minds of the electorate some 30 months from now. Based on indications that I'm picking up, Mr. Chair, that electorate can't wait to push that eject button, because this government is not doing what it said it would do. This $30-million commitment is just the latest example.
Now, yesterday, the minister was waffling and saying that at least it was a start and that the previous government had done this and that. "We're doing more," she said. "We can't do it overnight, blah, blah." Well, Mr. Chair, that's a definite weakening of the commitment made only three months ago in this Legislature. Where is the reconciliation between what the minister is saying now and what she said then?
Let's put this question to the minister: how can she reconcile what she's saying now with what she said only three months ago?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Referring to Hansard on December 6, the Member for Kluane asked, "Can the minister indicate to us what amount of money is required to upgrade that particular section of road?" He was referring to work between Whitehorse and Haines Junction - or Mendenhall and Haines Junction. I said, "Mr. Chair, I believe it's a total of almost $30 million." Mr. McRobb then went on with his next comment, finishing by saying, "Can the minister indicate to us that those commitments will be honoured?" I replied, "Mr. Chair, we expect to have that section of highway reconstructed within the next few years" - "few", Mr. Chair. F-E-W. I did not say "three". T-H-R-E-E. The member opposite is putting words in my mouth again.
And therefore, I don't have anything to reconcile. I expect that we will have that section of highway reconstructed within the next few years - and "few," as the member well knows, is a slightly fluid number. We will work on that to the best of our ability. The work begins this season. We will accomplish, with this year's funding, about 25 percent of the new grade construction, or about four kilometres, but it won't be usable for public traffic until the entire revision around Champagne, 16 kilometres, is completed. The total cost of the Champagne revision itself was estimated at just over $8 million in 1998, and the current cost estimate, applying the consumer price index adjustment factor, would be $8,396,302. So I hope the member opposite is satisfied with that.
Chair: Order please. It's important that we refer to members by the riding names instead of last names in the House. Make sure that all members do this in the future. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: Well, unfortunately, I'm not satisfied - not with that answer from the minister - because, Mr. Chair, by anybody's definition, "few" means three.
Furthermore, on December 12, in Question Period, I asked the minister a question regarding the Alaska Highway reconstruction, and I clearly said "three" - T-H-R-E-E - in the question on more than one occasion - three years. The minister at that time said nothing to indicate that this time span of her commitment was anything greater than three years. She had reaffirmed the commitment that $30 million would be spent on this highway in the next three years.
Well, Mr. Chair, the minister can be clever and try to argue semantics, but the proof's in the pudding. The words are there. It's more than just December 6. It's also December 12.
Now, I would ask the minister, can she reconcile the three-year approach versus the wait-forever approach she's taking now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I was interested to note the Member for Kluane's statement that, by anybody's definition, "few" means "three". That's certainly news to me and I think to most Yukoners. The teachers in the schools would have some fun with that.
I'm not interested in being clever, Mr. Chair. I'm interested in being honest. I said that I expected we would have that work done within the next few years, and I stand by that statement. We are making a start on that work in this coming construction season.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I want to just scope this out a little bit more. How can the minister make commitments beyond the mandate or term of this government? In that respect, "few years" could also mean "to the end of the mandate", which, at the time, meant three budgets - the one we're dealing with now, one next year and the one the year after. Beyond that, this government has no mandate to spend taxpayers' money.
Mr. Chair, this was an undertaking by the minister. I would like to know what the minister's definition of "few" is. How many years will it take to complete this project?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that will entirely depend upon funding being available. As I have said, I expect that we will complete this work in a few years. "Few" can be anywhere probably from three up until eight or nine, depending who is doing the counting.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I thank the minister for that lesson in arithmetic. It's very interesting to hear her interpretation of "a few", because it certainly doesn't correspond to my interpretation of "a few".
Now, the minister didn't answer the question with regard to the fulfillment of this commitment to restore the highway funding within the term of this government. We all know it won't be done, Mr. Chair. We also know now that this highway won't be completed for several years - not just a few years, but several years, and maybe not even during this first decade of this millennium. That's a substantial time to wait.
One of the commitments of this Liberal government was to restore highway funding. I asked the minister, back on December 6, what that meant. Well, the answer wasn't easy to come by, Mr. Chair. It required at least an hour of constant pressure in Committee to get some numbers out of the minister - what it would take for this Liberal government to fulfill that commitment. Remember what I said about the $379,000, Mr. Chair? Well, that's what prompted seeking out these numbers. I recall - I don't have to read Hansard - what the minister said. She said it would require, in terms of capital, between $20 million and $25 million per year and, in terms of O&M, at least $2 million per year, and that's in addition to any increases in fuel and wage and retirement packages.
Well, Mr. Chair, what we see today falls far short of that commitment to fulfill spending in those areas - far short. In fact, it is an embarrassment. What the government is spending in those areas this year, especially in the area of capital, is not a good start - $20 million to $25 million more in capital. What we see in this budget is half a million dollars more. If you consider Shakwak funding, I believe that figure would be $2 million. Well, that is less than 10 percent.
Now, this government campaigned on fulfilling that promise. It likes us to believe that it is doing what it says it would do. But here we see a down payment of about eight percent on that commitment, and we are expected to swallow - hook, line and sinker - the government's line about fulfilling its promise and that it is a good start, and all the rest of the rhetoric. But where is the other 92 percent? There are two more budgets, and all we get is more waffling.
All we are getting now is more excuses. We are getting excuses about how there is not enough money, and that this is a significant expense, and it is going to take several years to do this. Well, unfortunately this is another example of how this government could have been more forthright with Yukoners one year ago during the election campaign. Just like their promises about improving decorum in the Legislature, we see now that, indeed, if anything, this government has worsened decorum in the Legislature.
If the government were serious about what it was telling Yukoners, these numbers would be higher now. That leaves me to conclude the government is not serious and the party, during the election, was not serious. They were telling Yukoners whatever they wanted to hear, whatever was politically expedient. They had no intention of following through, because this is the Liberals' first, handcrafted budget, and the proof is in the pudding. There's only eight percent in terms of capital budget being restored - eight percent. That's not even a good start, Mr. Chair.
There is a pile of other commitments that my colleagues will also be holding the government accountable for in the coming weeks as we proceed through this budget and the various departments. I'm not finished in this department, either. There are other commitments in here that I want to question the minister on. This area of highways budget is one of the most important areas, not only from a riding perspective but from a Yukon perspective, because we all know that users of the Alaska Highway are distributed throughout the Yukon. They include tourists from other parts of the world visiting the Yukon as a destination or passing through, contributing to the local economy. To them, the condition of the road is a factor to consider in their decision to make the Yukon a destination or to make the trip in the first place.
So, the condition of our roads is very important.
One other area in this area, Mr. Chair, is the Champagne section - the Champagne revision, Champagne bypass, whatever you want to call it. This project, as the minister has stated, has been estimated to be in excess of $8 million. Now, we find out it's a multi-year program. I don't even think we have the number of years nailed down yet. Maybe somebody said "just a few", but what does "a few" mean?
That's quite a bit different from the perception one would hold if they had listened to the budget speech or listened to the Premier's interview on CBC radio with regard to the budget speech or listened to any of the media or read any of the media following the budget release. Mr. Chair, even the budget reply speeches from the other Liberal members all toasted the commitment made by this government to complete that project. There were dangerous corners that were going to be eliminated by this project, but the perception held by Yukoners, after listening to all the rhetoric, was that this project was going to be completed next year, not a few years down the road.
Mr. Chair, I see the minister shaking her head, obviously in disbelief, but I would invite her to show me where it was revealed to Yukoners that that project would extend beyond the coming year. If it's there somewhere, I'll apologize, but if it's not, I would ask her to retract her snicker. That's fair game.
I didn't hear it, and I don't think other Yukoners heard it. This government tried to take credit for this whole project this year. It spoke of those revised corners in terms of being a done deal, not part of a multi-year project.
Now, I want to also say that, following the minister's commitment in December, I helped this government spread the message to Yukoners and to people in the Kluane riding, specifically, about the good news I had heard in the Legislature on December 6 and December 12, with regard to the minister's commitment. I went out in the riding; I talked to people in Mendenhall, Champagne, Canyon Creek, Haines Junction, Silver City, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, 1118, Beaver Creek and elsewhere, Mr. Chair. And I told them, "You know, there's one project I certainly support that the Liberals are doing, and it's this highway reconstruction project. I think it's a heck of a commitment." I lauded the government for doing it.
Well, Mr. Chair, now I feel embarrassed, because I've been let down. I'm going to have to go back to those people and echo the minister's excuses about how they're going to have to wait for four or five or six or seven or eight or nine years before that work is done. But, Mr. Chair, this is going to concern a lot of people in each one of those communities who have to live with the dangerous road section for a number more years, which is completely unnecessary.
Now, I want to put on record, Mr. Chair, something that I have yet to hear anyone in this government admit. And that is the commitment to the three-year plan in the previous government's budget - the budget campaigned on by this Liberal government. It is the long-term commitment to start the reconstruction of the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Haines Junction and the completion of the Alaska Highway within the Yukon Territory. I have yet to hear any acknowledgement of that. Instead, we see more finger-pointing, more excuses, more delays and more evasions of responsibility.
Perhaps the members opposite aren't aware of what a long-term capital plan is. Because if you look in their budget, there isn't one. There is no long-term capital plan in the Liberals' budget for the 2001-02 year. There certainly was in the NDP's budget one year ago. I'm staring at the page right now. It was more than one page. I'm staring at the first page that dealt with this department.
As well, I want to provide a reference to one of the many handlers of the Liberal government, who are no doubt intently listening to the broadcast now and are eager to develop speaking notes for the minister to send down through the pages. I want to draw their attention to my budget reply of about one year ago - the date was probably about February 24 - in which I provided further illumination of what this commitment meant.
Those handlers will find that I said that this is the beginning of a program that will continue each year until those projects are complete. I had that commitment from the Government Leader. I had that commitment from the Cabinet, and the commitment was spelled out in this long-term capital plan.
Now, having put that on record, I would ask the members opposite to be a little less self-fulfilling and a little more respectful of what was said by the previous government, because many of the members of the previous government are sitting here in opposition, and our memory slate wasn't wiped clean on April 17. We are able to break through the fire wall and recall what was said prior to that - what was said both by us and by the Liberals. And believe me, there were plenty of commitments, and no shortage of material to hold this government accountable on.
One more that pops to mind is the commitment made by the now Premier, when she was the leader of the official opposition, just over a year ago at a luncheon with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. Her speech that day was transcribed, and I have read it a few times and I will keep reading it because there is lots of material in there. One of the commitments that she made to people of the Chamber of Commerce and to all Yukoners, because the Liberals distributed that information everywhere - they made plenty of copies and fax machines were ringing across the territory. One of the commitments was that the Liberals would not wait until the end of their mandate to come through on their spending commitments - would not wait.
They would start right from the beginning. Well, Mr. Chair, I hear the bells of accountability ringing, in light of the minister's revelation that it will take four, five, six, seven, eight or nine years to fulfill that commitment to restore highway funding and complete this project.
Mr. Chair, contrast that with the commitment made by the Liberals to restore highway funding in this term. Well, in terms of their budgets, it's one down, two more to go. They're going to wait until the end, and even the promise won't be fulfilled. It will be up to the next NDP government to complete this section of road. I'm looking forward to being part of that government, because I'll make sure that we do complete that road and I'll make sure we do fulfill our promises. I'll do my best not to raise the expectations of Yukoners unnecessarily and perhaps beyond the level of what can be delivered, because I have more respect for people. Saying one thing and doing another does not fall within my envelope of respect. Now, Mr. Chair, we see all kinds of deviations from what was promised to what is being delivered.
We see the government taking credit for things done almost exclusively by the previous government. Sometimes, Mr. Chair, the initiatives were complete and just required a signature on a press release and a few calls to the media before something was launched. Yet do we hear any recognition from the side opposite? No.
I stand corrected, Mr. Chair. I thought I heard something today in Question Period - finally, some admission of the work generated by the previous government. That aside, the desire by this government to take credit for everything and to not give credit where credit is due is fast tarring their image with Yukoners.
Yukoners are beginning to see what we have seen in this Legislature since last June. When we look across the way, Mr. Chair, in some respects, we see ourselves four years ago, but there are some big differences. That side lacks a lot of confidence; that's obvious. They lack experience; well, we can understand that. We can accommodate for that, and I think Yukoners have graciously accommodated for that by extending a normal three-month honeymoon to nearly a year.
But people are getting impatient, because there are no signs that things will be coming soon. The Premier, just barely an hour ago, admitted there was no internal process to foster the creation or development or tracking of any economic initiatives or environmental issues.
Mr. Chair, I want to contrast that with a process that was exercised in the previous Piers McDonald government, and it's something that should be no surprise to the members opposite, because it won't be the first time I have mentioned this. And you might be interested, Mr. Chair, because it was not exclusive of backbenchers either.
We had a process called the Cabinet Committee on Economic and Environmental Issues - CCEEI. That process included ministers, the Government Leader, backbenchers, staff and departmental people, including deputy ministers and directors. It was quite the session, each meeting lasting a few hours. We would track stuff like C&TS projects to Economic Development projects to environmental initiatives, trade tours, Connect Yukon - you name it. It was common to have at least 40 agenda items on the table for those meetings, plus a few others in the hopper.
Well, Mr. Chair, what have we got from this government? This government doesn't even acknowledge that it's even aware of this critical process that was a fundamental part of the previous government. Like I said, this is not the first time I have mentioned this.
Now, we can understand that it's an inexperienced government, but if they're closing their ears to suggestions from the remnants of a previous, experienced government, then I can't help them.
Nobody can help them, Mr. Chair. They are refusing to acknowledge proven instruments to help Yukoners - something this government could do. They are refusing to hear it. They like to stand up, laugh, finger-point and blame the previous government instead. But the time is coming when Yukoners will assess the performance of this government. Call it "judgement day". They will assess the performance and see what's in the garden after a few years. They will see if there is fruit on that tree. They will see if there are vegetables in the garden or just a bunch of weeds.
Mr. Chair, it's important to understand that to reap a harvest, one has to first plant seeds. To plant seeds, you have to have ideas. Mr. Chair, all of that relates to the process that I have described, which was fundamental to the previous government and to which this government is completely oblivious. They are completely oblivious to any sort of a vehicle whatsoever.
Well, Mr. Chair, I have a little heads-up for the members opposite. I think my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, when he gets to the Department of Economic Development, might be reviewing some of those initiatives. Maybe then we can learn what sort of things are on the table.
Now, there's one thing I'd like to point out to the minister, because it's something in this department now: Connect Yukon. I've heard her say, oh, 20, 30 times or so - definitely more than a few, Mr. Chair - how the previous government announced the Connect Yukon project in the middle of her by-election in Laberge.
Well, Mr. Chair, I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again. There's not always an opportunity in this Legislature to respond to errors that are put on the record by others. Here's how I want to address that issue. I want to put on record right now that Connect Yukon was a seed that was planted several months previous to that - several months. It was on the table at CCEEI early in the year and was nurtured over the course of that year. I remember a meeting, I believe, in August. Connect Yukon was getting ready to pull the plug.
Did we know there was a by-election coming? No. Did we know where Mr. Livingston was? No. Mr. Chair, we couldn't predict all this. Could we wait until after the by-election? Well, I suppose. But, in retrospect, if we had waited, it would have been Christmas. If we waited until after that, we would have been accused of unveiling this thing just before the general election.
Mr. Chair, it made sense to go with it and not delay it, because the most important thing, politics aside, was that Yukoners were in need of telephones and in need of Internet. The schools were in need of broadband digital service to foster telecommunications, distributed learning and other virtues of the Connect Yukon program.
Would it be fair to make them wait? No, Mr. Chair. Now, I sense that I'm nearing the end of my time limit.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: A couple of minutes? Okay.
And I might have to refresh it by asking a question of the minister. Perhaps, staying on topic, I should present this as a question: is the minister aware that the Connect Yukon project was not, just like a rabbit, pulled out of a hat in October, I believe it was, of 1999, and that it was on the drafting board for several months? In fact, I believe it was ready to be unveiled a couple of months earlier but was delayed unexpectedly due to matters out of our control at the time. The side opposite could probably acknowledge that delays do happen from time to time.
Is she aware now that, in fact, Connect Yukon was not a rabbit pulled out of the hat at the last minute and that, in fact, it had been a rabbit that was in the oven for several months, and it was time to deliver this to Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the member is planning to talk a full 30 minutes each time he stands up in C&TS debate, we're certainly in for an interesting few weeks.
Yukoners voted for change, Mr. Chair. They didn't like what the NDP was doing; they didn't like their current capital plans or their future capital plans. They voted them and their plans out of office. We are not bound by the plans that were rejected by voters, and we are drawing up capital plans as we speak, Mr. Chair.
There is a lot of difference between committing something and actually delivering on it, not unlike tax breaks for Yukoners, increases in highway spending, and the list goes on.
The fact is that, if you don't deliver, you don't get the credit. We increased spending on highways in the Yukon. We reduced taxes. We did it, Mr. Chair - not the members opposite. I note with interest the Hansard of December 12, in which the Member for Kluane made a commitment to reconstruct the sections of the Alaska Highway that he was referring to in the next three years. He made the commitment, Mr. Chair; I did not. I did not say that. I never used the number 3 to refer to the time frame in which that highway work would be done. Now, ideally, if money fell out of the sky, we would be able to do a lot of things. We are very serious. We are committed to restoring highway funding. We have more in the capital budget for 2001-02 than there was under the NDP at the end of their mandate. The funding on the Alaska Highway for 1999-00 was $367,000; the 2000-01 forecast was $778,000. In our budget for the coming fiscal year, $3,233,000 is for the Alaska Highway. That is demonstrating our commitment. I find it very interesting that the Member for Kluane talks about the deplorable condition of the roads. Mr. Chair, the condition of the roads apparently wasn't important when the NDP was in power. Those corners didn't just become dangerous on April 18 of last year. Those corners have been there for a long time. As the member knows, we are now in the capital planning process and we will be delivering a fall capital budget.
I also note with interest that the NDP's long-term capital plan appeared 18 months after their election, not a matter of minutes or a couple of months. That seems to have escaped the member's memory.
As for Connect Yukon, Mr. Chair, obviously it was something that wasn't pulled out of the hat at the last minute. I do find it interesting that the member does refer to it as a rabbit, however.
I also note with interest that Connect Yukon is not about telephones, as the member continues to insist.
However, I think I have said enough and it's time to listen to the Member for Kluane for another 30 minutes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I thank you for that introduction, Mr. Chair. However, I have to dispute a few of the points made in the prelude.
Starting with the minister's criticism of the previous NDP government for not introducing a long-term plan until some 18 months into its mandate, Mr. Chair, the minister is obviously using that as a basis to excuse her government from doing the same thing, but there's a major difference. Providing long-term plans was not a practice by any government until introduced by the Piers McDonald government. Once that practice was established, it continued until the election, only to be discontinued by the Liberal government. To be discontinued again this year is not defensible, and certainly an excuse reverting back is not defensible.
This government fails to provide any indication that it has any vision for the future. It has no long-term plan, Mr. Chair. That's becoming painfully obvious, day by day. No long-term plan. No vision.
Now, Mr. Chair, there's one other aspect of the minister's criticism of the previous government that I would like to put on the record. The Liberals, when in opposition, advocated an approach to produce long-term budget plans. They persuaded the previous government to do it and they held its feet to the fire. Well, Mr. Chair, are we forgetting that now? Because those same Liberals are in government now. Why didn't it do what it expected the previous government to do? It's not judging itself by the same high standard it judged the previous government, Mr. Chair. Otherwise, we'd see a more conciliatory attitude here in this Legislature and a greater understanding on the part of the ministers. We'd see them more frequently giving credit where credit is due. That's not happening.
Now we hear the minister talk about the fall budget. "It will be in the budget in the fall," she says. Well, I'm getting tired of hearing about these delays from the Liberal government. It's the same old story, the same old excuses, the same-old same-old.
Last spring and summer, we sat here in June and July. We called upon the government to do more in certain areas for the benefit of Yukoners. We asked them to bring in another supplementary budget in addition to the one they had brought in.
But they refused, Mr. Chair. They said, "Well, wait until the fall." They said, "It'll be in the supplementary budget in the fall." What do we say? "Well, that's going to be one heck of a supplementary budget. It's going to have all these projects rolled into it."
So came the fall, and so came great disappointment, because the Liberal supplementary budget in the fall fell far short of anybody's expectations of what was to be in it. In response to that, Mr. Chair, we provided constructive alternatives. I believe the leader of the third party might have also contributed one or two constructive alternatives into how this relatively inexperienced government could improve what it had tabled as a fall supplementary budget. In fact, we correlated our suggestions into our own supplementary budget and handed it out, printed out, to the government, Mr. Chair, as a guide, as an example of what could be done, but it was rejected. The Liberal government didn't want to hear any of it. It contained valuable programs, roadside clearing programs, installation of street lights, and so on, projects that fall within the scope of this department.
Well, Mr. Chair, the excuses at the time were, "This government doesn't believe in short-term jobs; we can't spend money on that stuff; we're broke," they said.
Wait until the spring. That's when you will see the real Liberal budget is in the spring. Well, we have seen the Liberal's spring budget and, again, it falls far short. The government has admitted that there are no long-term jobs in it. It's just sustaining 700 jobs - sustaining, Mr. Chair. Even though the Premier misused the word "created" over the radio, she later corrected herself and replaced the word "created" with "sustained". There's a major difference - the difference being that these are all short-term jobs, the same jobs rejected by the Liberals in the fall. What wasn't good for them then is all of a sudden good for them now.
Aside from that issue, looking at the bigger picture, the Liberals are now pointing their finger to the fall, saying, "Well, we couldn't do it now, but wait until the fall." Well, we have come full circle - from spring to fall, from fall to spring, and now from spring to fall again. The Liberals have Yukoners running in circles wondering when they are going to deliver on their promises. Well, we are getting dizzy, and we are getting sick and tired of waiting. What was three in December is nine now. What was the spring in December is now, all of a sudden, November. We are getting tired of waiting. The seeds should have been planted months ago.
The growing season is getting shorter. There's no fruit on the tree; there are no vegetables in the garden. It's turning out that the Liberals' only economic policy is a scorched-earth policy. It was pointed out by someone a week or two back that the only way Yukoners are going to get jobs is if there's a big forest fire season. Call it the Liberals' scorched-earth policy toward economic destruction, Mr. Chair. They certainly led Yukoners to believe otherwise.
I recall from a year ago, Mr. Chair, exactly when the race was kicked off. The Liberals promised to rebuild the economy, but now we find out a year later they don't even have a process to deal with it, never mind seeds planted. They don't even have a process. They don't even understand what the process is, and instead chastise us on this side if we even ask.
Well, Mr. Chair, that type of bitter reaction will prove very disfavourable to Yukoners on judgement day. People will remember. We certainly will on this side.
Something else mentioned by the minister in her prelude was that I somehow misconstrued my comment with regard to the use of the word "three" back on December 12.
It's coming from her. Mr. Chair, I made no such reference. But the minister did not clarify the number 3, did not explain that her definition of "few" was anything other than three. The minister herself chose not to inform Yukoners that they would have to wait any more than three years on December 12.
Just because the minister, on that day, did not say the word "three", it does not mean that it was not agreed to. Just think of how cumbersome the legislative process would be if the minister, upon agreeing to something, had to repeat every last component of the question and say, "I agree to that." Mr. Chair, there's such a thing as a mutual understanding. The discussion that day is on the record.
The minister had the opportunity thrice to correct the record and correct the interpretation of "three", being the definition of "few", but she failed to do that.
Mr. Chair, there is nothing provided to us from her or any of her Liberal cohorts to correct the understanding put on the record with regard to this matter - no letters, no memos, no e-mails, no phone calls. There is nothing.
Well, perhaps they knew, Mr. Chair, that, if I were particularly happy with this commitment. I'd be out talking to my constituents and other Yukoners about it, and I would be the fall guy when I found out they weren't going to live up to that commitment.
Well, Mr. Chair, I've learned from that experience. I hope other Yukoners do as well, because it's plain to see now that this is a government that cannot be trusted. That's clear, Mr. Chair.
Look at the consultation process for this budget: the public notice being provided after the time of the meetings in communities like Beaver Creek, the paper not arriving until the afternoon, and the budget meetings being held at noon, and, in addition to that, the venues being changed.
I had constituents complain to me, Mr. Chair, that they were being asked for input in a restaurant while they were trying to eat their lunch. The government was desperate to validate questions asked in a restaurant as legitimate public consultation. Well, I guess when you have no answers and you don't do your homework, it's understandable why a government would get desperate.
Now, did this inexperienced government know better? Of course they did, Mr. Chair. I draw your attention to Hansard back in June - it might have been June 7 - when I explained to the Premier the budget consultation process, exercised by the previous government in the Kluane riding, which could be applied to several ridings in the territory, with regard to -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Member for Laberge, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane is now wandering far afield in areas that he properly should have addressed to the Premier during general debate on the budget. We are now in debate on Community and Transportation Services. He keeps referring to the Premier. He perhaps should have asked the Premier these questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Chair, obviously the minister is feeling some of the pain from some of these remarks that are being put on the record. However, I disagree that they should be spoken only to the Premier. The consultations are in the communities, and clearly this is the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and if she just would have held off for a minute, I would have gotten to specific examples that rest solely within this department.
Chair: On the point of order, there were no rules broken by Mr. McRobb. General debate on Community and Transportation Services is general debate, and if it reflects the government policies, it may continue. No rules were broken; there's no point of order. Please continue, Mr. McRobb.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Well, the comments I've put on record so far are intended to hold the government accountable but also to inform them that there is a better way than what they've exhibited to date. I'm talking in regard to internal process that can plant economic seeds. I'm referring to how it should avoid falsely raising expectations of Yukoners that they can't deliver and, most recently, about how, when they embark on public consultation.
One of the first principles that should be upheld is the need to respect Yukoners. Mr. Chair, when you advertise a meeting after it has been held, that's not respecting Yukoners.
I made the point before that, in these budget consultation meetings, particularly in my riding, the government should please provide adequate notice and show respect to people so that at least they're aware that the opportunity to provide their input on the budget even exists and is even coming. Otherwise, how are they to know? It's impossible, Mr. Chair.
Furthermore, there were obviously some problems at some of these meetings. These are all things that can be improved upon.
The time for budget consultation, Mr. Chair, is in the early fall, if the capital budget is to be tabled in February, in order to provide enough time to incorporate any suggestions into the budget. To have them analyzed and considered, that amount of time is required. Now we hear that this government wants to shift the timing of the capital budget to the fall. I ask: when does it plan to do the consultation? In the summertime? Because adequate upfront time is necessary in order to analyze, consider and incorporate any suggestions. Otherwise, you're left with a process like the one we just experienced, where the government decides what the budget is and then calls on a last-minute dog-and-pony show to tour the Yukon, pull together some quick meetings, and hope that what's in the budget is mentioned at these meetings, and, if they are, just glom right onto them, extract them and roll them into the budget as a reference.
Now, at the meeting that you chaired in Haines Junction, there were several suggestions made. The only one I recall being referenced by the Premier in her budget speech was the need to improve our highways. But what about all of the other ones?
The input about the need to improve our highways did not just appear out of nowhere on that day back in January. That need has been proven years before. That need was indicated in the previous long-term plan of the previous government, which I spoke of earlier. In that plan, the commitment to address that need was started. This government already made a decision to spend money on that highway before the meeting even started. Yet we hear the Premier talk about someone in Haines Junction, in a meeting led by you, mentioned that and how this government listens and does what Yukoners say. Well, what a load of baloney. It's not the way it was. More substantial is the commitment made by the minister back in December in this committee.
What about the Liberals' campaign promise to restore highway funding? What about the press release back in October that they fulfilled that promise? This matter has some history to it.
It just didn't spring out in a meeting in January - late January at that. Mr. Chair, this is a long-standing concern. It's something that has been requested by a lot of people, by a lot of governments in the area and by other Yukoners who travel that road. This, after all, is the last section of highway to be constructed, as identified in the devolution agreement with the federal government.
Now, one other item that was in the Premier's budget speech was the government's new initiative to maintain the roads in Burwash Landing. In my budget reply, I referred to correspondence from December 1999, in which the previous minister indicated that that work was, in fact, already being done by the department. Can the minister explain to us what new is being promised here?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry. The member actually asked a question there, Mr. Chair. I'm afraid I missed it. Could he please repeat it?
Mr. McRobb: Well, I'm sorry to wake up the minister, but it's with regard to the Premier's budget speech about the back patting for maintaining roads in the community of Burwash Landing as something new. I referenced correspondence from December 1999 in my budget reply, which indicated that those responsibilities were already within the jurisdiction of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
My question is this: what new is being promised in this budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the Member for Kluane is having to wake me up, it's because his soothing voice over such a long period of time is putting me to sleep.
I believe the Premier may have been referring to - and I don't want to second-guess her, and the member should have asked the Premier when he had the opportunity - increased snow clearing, but since I'm not in the Premier's head, I'll have to ask her what she meant.
Mr. McRobb: Well, here we go, Mr. Chair. We've come full-circle again. You know, in Question Period, the minister stands up and says, "You'll have to ask me that when it comes up in Committee debate." Well, guess what, Mr. Chair; we're in Committee debate now. Now the minister passes the buck to the Premier. Just about an hour ago, the Premier said to one of my colleagues, "That's a question you're going to have to ask somebody else when their department comes up."
Mr. Chair, trying to hold this government and these ministers responsible for their areas is very difficult. It's about as difficult as trying to nail Jell-O to the wall - very tough to do. It's high time these ministers cut the games playing and just provide the information requested.
Now, if the minister isn't aware of one of the few undertakings her department is providing in this budget and that was highlighted in the Premier's budget speech, then something has badly gone wrong, especially when that particular issue was highlighted in my budget reply. I identified it as one of the areas that I was challenging. I identified the correspondence from December 1999 in my budget reply.
The minister still doesn't know what I'm talking about and is unfamiliar with the matter. Now, she has had a few minutes to recover. The deputy minister has been very busy over there, as I speak, getting her up to speed on this. Can the minister now explain what new is being provided in this budget in regard to road maintenance in the community of Burwash Landing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There had been complaints about snow clearing in Burwash Landing, and we are addressing that in this budget. The member was referring to something the Premier said, and he should properly have addressed that to the Premier.
Mr. Chair, unlike previous governments that did not understand the importance of our highways to the prosperity of this territory, and which slashed highway maintenance budgets and highway capital budgets, this government is showing leadership and vision by rebuilding the Yukon's highways. We are restoring the highway budget. We have increased it, in the budget we just tabled, from the dismal figure it was last year, under the NDP. That is our vision. The member may pretend he was expecting $20 million all at once, in addition to the highways budget, but that isn't going to happen.
We have made a start at restoring the highway funding, and I expect that we will continue with that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: This is almost unbelievable, Mr. Chair. Even though my expectations of this Liberal government have been lowered, based on their poor performance over the past 11 months, this is yet another low - a new low. I can barely believe my ears and what I just heard.
Obviously, Mr. Chair, this government is continuing the campaign tactics of just saying whatever it wants people to hear, while having no conviction to fulfill those promises. That was clearly demonstrated in the campaign, which started one year ago today, and it is being demonstrated now. The latest revelation is that something contained in the Premier's own budget speech doesn't exist. Instead, the minister moves to the big picture and contrasts what her government is doing, which is better than what the previous government did.
Well, Mr. Chair, wasn't the minister listening earlier on when I pleaded with her and her colleagues to move beyond that type of political rhetoric, to live up to the responsibility that's expected of them now, being in government for almost a year? Obviously not, because we're continuing to hear the same type of answers from these ministers.
Obviously, Mr. Chair, there are items in this budget speech that are, at best, gross exaggerations. It will be up to us on this side to expose this government for what it's doing, and believe me, our work is cut out.
Our work is really cut out, because there is probably only six weeks left of four days a week in which to review this budget. It would be nice to make some more progress, but obviously the members aren't listening.
Now, one other information request that we had in the departmental briefing was identification of revotes in the department. Now, I know that these aren't in black and white yet because we are not quite at the end of the fiscal year. But for projects in this department, usually there are capital items that are done in the non-winter months. So, it should not be any surprise to the department as to which revotes in terms of capital will be coming up. Can the minister indicate for us, or undertake to provide us with a list of those revotes for her department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are about eight weeks away from the time when we look at revotes, so I don't have that information for the member yet. And looking at the notes from the briefing that he received, I don't see where he asked that question.
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously the system used by the minister doesn't meet the test, because I distinctly asked the question.
I asked the minister if she could undertake to provide us with that information when it becomes available. I didn't hear a response to that. Can she indicate whether she can satisfy our information request in that regard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's budget information that the member is asking for, so he'll see that in the fall supp. That's standard practice, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'm not certain whether it's standard practice or not. The minister indicated that it's available, and I believe she said six weeks.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Eight weeks - fine. Why wait until the fall? This government campaigned on doing things differently. It campaigned on being more cooperative.
If there's nothing to hide here, why can't we have the list? There are some important projects that were not completed in the current year, and we want evidence and some security in knowing that those projects have been revoted. Can the minister undertake to provide us with that information relatively soon after it's available, and not have us wait until the fall?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's my understanding that it was not the practice of the previous government to give the opposition information on revotes before a supplementary budget was delivered, and I would have to take the advice of my caucus colleagues on whether or not this government would entertain such a thing. Again, it isn't standard practice.
If the member is wondering about a specific project, perhaps I can help to enlighten him.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, that answer pretty well speaks for itself. I was hoping for more, because this is certainly information that could be provided. I don't see the harm in it. It would help us understand, to a greater degree, what's happening in the department and what's happening in our own ridings.
Obviously, if the Liberal government doesn't want us to have it, we will have to rough it and take whatever it can give us. But, Mr. Chair, it's just one more letdown. There's no reason why it can't be provided.
Now, Mr. Chair, I want to turn to the rural road upgrade program and ask the minister why this program has suffered such a large reduction. It has been cut by 60 percent, down to only $400,000 for the next budget year.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is because there wasn't sufficient money to allocate more resources to it. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, that answer never would have satisfied the minister when she sat on this side. I can just hear the uproar now. Yet, she expects us to be satisfied with that type of an answer. That's not very fair. It's not very fair at all.
This is an important program. Obviously the members opposite have underestimated its importance. It was quick to support the program when it was developed under the previous NDP government. It was quick to announce projects last summer, after getting into government. Several of the projects, I might add, were in the minister's own riding.
But now, after they've been done, this program is slashed down to $400,000 - 40 percent. This is an important program.
Now I want to ask a slightly different question. Does this reflect any change in the policy of the government with respect to upgrading rural roads in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, no, it doesn't. I would point out that one of the items that received rural roads funding this current fiscal year was the sawmill road in Ross River. That's a line item in the budget and therefore not included in rural roads for the coming year.
I agree with the member that it is an important project. However, there is only so much money to go around, and it has to be allocated as it is available. $400,000 is more than it was going to be in our planning process, and I asked that it be raised because I do recognize the importance of it. It's also a program that has come and gone, in effect, over the years. The previous government, I believe, had $1.5 million in it a couple of years ago, and then they cut it by a significant percentage, with $1 million. So fluctuations in the amount aren't new, either.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this government pleads poverty but yet it's quick to point out it has got lots of money for other things. It's also quick to point out, and it campaigned on it, that, if elected, the Liberal stars would be lined up and better things would happen. Well, Mr. Chair, where is it?
The DIAND minister has visited the Yukon several times. Members of this government have connected with him several other times. What has been provided to the Yukon Territory from the DIAND minister or the federal government in regard to any type of highway funding or bridge funding? Has there been anything?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Since we took office, Mr. Chair, I'm not aware of any funding from the federal government for highways specifically or bridges specifically.
Mr. McRobb: I'm sure I'm not the only Yukoner who is wondering this, Mr. Chair, but where's the payoff? We see the DIAND minister in Yellowknife announcing $3.7 million for seven permanent bridge crossings along the Mackenzie Highway's winter extension from Wrigley to Fort Good Hope back in December.
I am aware of other requests that have been filed from Nunavut about a road to the south. I am aware of other projects that her department would be very interested in and that could be done in the territory. Yet nothing has been produced, and there is nothing on the horizon as far as we know. Can the minister indicate if there will be something in the coming year in this regard, and what it might be?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe that the Department of Economic Development has been working with the Minister of DIAND on similar projects for the Yukon. I, however, am not the Minister of Economic Development, so I do not have the answers for him.
Mr. McRobb: Well, it is awfully hard to get any kind of answers from anybody in this government. It seems to be a game of musical chairs or pin the tail on the donkey, perhaps. But it is awfully difficult to extract the relevant information at any opportunity. Anybody listening to this or reading Hansard will probably come to that conclusion in a fair assessment.
Now, Mr. Chair, there are several matters besides roads in this department that are going to require scrutiny. There are airports; there are areas in other branches, but I would like to ask a question of the minister about the municipal block funding. This is something that the members opposite wailed on us about. "Increase block funding," they said. When we did increase it, they said it wasn't enough. In all fairness, why hasn't this government increased municipal block funding in this budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon government is proposing that the total grant to municipalities remain at $11,816,869 in the 2001-02 budget. The legislated base is $11,470,000. That was increased by one percent in 1999-00 and, in 2000-01, it was increased by a further two percent.
The Yukon government continues to provide funding to municipalities through extraordinary funding, grants-in-lieu of taxes, and various other funding programs.
This compares very favourably to the trend of reductions in municipal funding in other jurisdictions across Canada. The Yukon government's contribution to the Association of Yukon Communities was increased in 1999-00 by $25,000 - from $50,000 to $75,000 - and in 2000-01, to $100,000. And we're proposing that the grant to Association of Yukon Communities remain at $100,000 for 2001-02. We are open to discussing changes to the formula calculation, if requested by the Association of Yukon Communities. We are quite open to hearing them on this subject, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: The agreeds have it. We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane had asked, sometime back at the beginning of the C&TS general debate, what had happened to the replies to some of the questions he had asked. One of the questions, we believe, was with regard to the Alaska Highway reconstruction for the Whitehorse to Haines Junction section and if we could provide a list for all projects - current and future - when they will be done, what will be done and what the costs will be. The member has been provided with that information. But I will mention them for the record, anyway.
The 2001-02 projects are the reconstruction of Pine Lake corner. This involves realigning a short section of the Alaska Highway near Haines Junction in order to bring a substandard curb up to a 100-kilometre-an-hour design standard. This is estimated to cost $600,000. And we will commence reconstruction of the Champagne revision. Under this project, work will start on the reconstruction of the Champagne revision, which will relocate the Alaska Highway away from the Village of Champagne.
Reconstruction for about 25 percent of the length of the revision is expected to be accomplished this year. The cost for this year is estimated at $2.3 million.
Future years - complete the unreconstructed section of the Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and Whitehorse, which is approximately 60 kilometres in length and will cost in the order of $30 million to reconstruct. That was the answer that was already provided to the member.
In addition to this, of course, are the revotes, and we aren't in a position to say what the revotes will be. It is premature, as I had indicated to the member, but the member may take some comfort from knowing that I committed to the mayor and council in the Village of Haines Junction to follow through on the intersection project in the centre of town - the intersection of the Alaska Highway and the Haines Highway. We will be doing the work on that project.
I hope that is satisfactory to the member.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the minister's representation is neither fair nor accurate. The material provided subsequent to the departmental briefing did not satisfy the information I requested and, once again, I'll have to expand on what is being requested.
What I would like is a list of the specific projects that are all part of this $30-million-plus section of highway reconstruction. Now, we know the Champagne revision is about $1.8 million or so. Where is the other $22 million? Now, this road is divided into projects, and each project has details regarding cost, odometer readings and so on. What I would like from the minister are project descriptions for each section that needs to be revised.
Now, if the minister is thinking about standing up and saying, "Well, it's all one project, and it all depends on how much money we have," that's fine. Provide the information on what work needs to be done and how much it costs. Unless it's contiguous roadway, it's divided into sections. What is the cost for each particular section? That is the information I'm seeking, and if the minister has any further need for clarification, I'd be happy to respond. But for the time being, can she come back with that information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I believe that the member has all of that information. If not on the piece of paper that we have already provided him, then he has it in other forms. And he is quite aware - because he drives by it every time he goes to Haines Junction - what the sections of the road are that need to be done.
Mr. McRobb: I was hoping for something a little more than a sarcastic reply like that.
Now, I do not have the information that the minister accuses me of having. She has it. She is the minister responsible for this department, and I am asking her, as a member of the opposition, whether or not she can provide it. Once again, can she provide the project details on what work remains to be done on the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse - the cost, the kilometre ranges, maybe some project description?
This is not a difficult task, Mr. Chair. The information exists. These projects are on the shelf. Just apply some money and they are a go. It's not as if somebody has to go out and engineer, survey and estimate. All of that work has been done. What I am asking for is a summary of what each section is going to cost, the length of each section, and so on - basic information. Can she provide that, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The work remaining to be done is on the areas that were cleared some years past. The member's well aware of that. The member says this is information that's available; it's off the shelf. Well, the member had access to it when his party was in government, so the member has the information. He's also wanting me to break it down, project by project. We are in our capital planning process and our long-term planning process at the moment, Mr. Chair.
It also is not information that deals with the budget that's before us, because this is not work that's going to be done in the 2001-02 year.
When we're in general debate, the members opposite delight in asking the Premier information specific to other ministers. When we're in debate on a particular department, they ask for information that the Premier should be answering. I don't know if it's because they don't understand the structure of government, or if it's because they're deliberately playing games.
However, while I'm on my feet, I also want to mention something that was raised by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun in general budget debate with the Premier on February 28. He asked, "The grant-in-lieu of property taxes is going down. Can you explain that?" And, "The revenue for grant-in-lieu of taxes received from the federal government has been reduced from the $235,000 forecast in 2000-01 to $225,000 in the 2001-02 main estimate."
The reduction is mainly due to adjustment of assessed values on parcels of land as required per the federal payments-in-lieu schedules, and there is a routine process whereby the extent and value of federal government properties are reviewed on a periodic basis.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, we're having some difficulty here. The minister's refusing to provide very simple information. Furthermore, she's becoming somewhat aggressive in chastising us for even asking for it and accusatory about how we already possess it - twice now she has said that. Mr. Chair, let me assure you and everyone else, I do not possess this information. I wouldn't be asking for it if it was something I already had. Furthermore, just because I was a member of the previous government does not provide any basis for her assumptions that I was privy to information that rested with any particular department.
I don't know how these Liberals operate upstairs, Mr. Chair. I don't know how they distribute information. From what I've seen this afternoon, it's something I don't really want to know about, because it would just be one more opportunity to shake my head in disbelief. Let me assure everyone that information that was exclusive to a department, such as future years' projects that were within the responsibility of a Cabinet minister - who is sworn to office with an additional layer of oaths to maintain privacy and so on of confidential materials - it would have been highly unusual for that sworn minister to release such information to anyone else.
That's my experience at least, Mr. Chair. There are several things going on in each department that I personally was not aware of. There was information being distributed between the minister and his deputy in this particular department, which was not distributed to my desk. I can accept that, Mr. Chair. But there seems to be some confusion here.
It seems that the minister is assuming that everything that went to each minister also would have been provided to private members. Well, Mr. Chair, how do you feel about that? Are you getting everything that goes to the minister? I would find that highly unusual if you responded in the affirmative.
Now, one other angle of this is that the minister points a finger at me and calls me the previous government. Mr. Chair, in the same vein, I was a private member in the previous government. I was proud and still am proud to have been part of it. But I was not exclusively the previous government. In addition to me, there were several other colleagues, including six in Cabinet.
Mr. Chair, these references by the minister are ridiculous. Then she accuses me of political games playing. Well, this is to the point of being unbelievable.
What I am looking for is information. I'm looking for answers. I'm looking for rationale. I'm not looking for games. This information, which the minister refuses to provide, is fundamental to me, to my constituents and to other Yukoners.
What are the costs of these projects? The only figure we have thus far is a reference back to December, buried in some other note, to the effect that $30 million is required to upgrade that highway. I don't believe we still have a definite amount on the entire cost of the Champagne section.
Mr. Chair, this is information known to the department, and it's information to which I would expect the minister to be privy, and if she's not, for whatever reason, I'm sure that can be promptly remedied. There's no need for her to delay and play games any longer. Let's get down to it. Let's provide the information and continue on in this budget.
Can we do that? Can the minister provide us with this information? Regardless of what she might think, I do not have it nor have I ever had it.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will take the member at his word on that. We can get him a list but it won't be by project because we haven't broken it down into projects. That depends on the budget availability. When the budget becomes known, then the department determines how much of the work they can do. As the member knows, it's a $30-million bill to do the 60 kilometres.
We can get him what information is available but, again, I say it will not be by project.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I guess that's about all we can reasonably expect.
Now, I'd like to shift gears on the highways with the minister and go to other highway projects. I'll start by asking if she has developed any type of a priority list about which highways require attention before others. Does she have anything to that effect?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, it should be obvious from the budget that the Alaska Highway is our priority for this coming budget year because of the long overdue work that needs to be done on that section. As the Member for Kluane stated at the beginning of the afternoon, federal money was coming in, but it was cut. Things had to be reallocated, and highways were cut.
We will look at the areas that are on the Alaska Highway as a priority. There is a certain amount of work on the Campbell Highway that must be done, and there is some pavement rehabilitation that is overdue and that we will be beginning this year. We are also looking at the pipeline project coming down the Alaska Highway, knowing that we must be doing Alaska Highway work in anticipation of that. We are looking at increased mining potential in the Ross River area and are looking at the Campbell Highway for that.
There is no highway in the Yukon that doesn't require a certain amount of work. In one sense or another, they are all a priority. I haven't sat down and numbered them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. As the member knows, that is not a practical thing to do. But for this year, the Alaska Highway and the work that we are doing on the Champagne revision is a priority.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I understand that the Alaska Highway is a priority, as demonstrated in the allocations within this budget. But I want to focus more on the other highways to try to determine if there is a priority list in the minister's head regarding reconstruction of these other highways.
If I understand her response correctly, she is indicating that the figures in the budget will indicate what her priority is. If that is the case, then she puts a higher priority on the Tagish Road than the Klondike Highway, for instance. Is that a fair assumption, or is there more of an understandable explanation that could help us to understand what the minister's priorities really are?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is attempting to put words in my mouth again. I said that I had not numbered them 1, 2, 3, 4 or whatever, but that the Alaska Highway was a priority. I mentioned the Campbell Highway.
One cannot do all of the work on all of the highways at one time. One has to take into account work that was done in previous years and work that will potentially be done in future years. All of the highways are a priority, and we are putting our money on the Alaska Highway this year. There is no priority list in my head, per se. Over a period of years, it is my hope that funding will be available to restore all of the highways to the state that they need to be in. However, it is neither practical nor desirable to do all of that work at one time.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, with regard to the Alaska Highway allocation, the minister mentioned the pipeline. Is this work being done as prep for the pipeline?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Alaska Highway work is being done because it is long overdue and needs to be done. The fact that an Alaska Highway pipeline is a possibility also plays into having the highway in good shape, but we have a long way to go before we reach that point.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to return now to the rural road upgrading program. Can the minister provide some insight into the decision-making process for the projects, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a number of criteria, each of which is given a certain ranking. Projects are ranked on that basis. The same process was used last year - the same as what the previous administration used for that. It is based on, among other things, the need for the project. I have more information on the various weighting in my office, but it isn't here in front of me, but I'm sure the Member for Kluane is aware of that sort of process that is used in ranking something. It isn't to take it away from someone arbitrarily saying, "We are going to do this and this and this." Instead, you say, "We're going to do this and this because they fit into these criteria." That is how you arrive at the projects that are at the top of the list.
Mr. McRobb: The minister mentioned that, basically, the decision-making process is the same as practised by the previous government. However, I can recall, off the top of my head, some examples that differentiate from the previous government. And one of them is the minister's admission, back in the fall, that several of these projects were, in fact, not recommended by the public to the government, but were recommended by the department. Is that a new practice started by this government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, it is not. The needs of the department also need to be taken into consideration. And the one project that the member is referring to was one of the roads off the Klondike Highway, on the periphery of Whitehorse, where the department had difficulty with the equipment that's normally used on roads, and they required some work on the road so they could get a plow truck, I guess, there, instead of a grader. That was Policeman's Point Road. There was some clearing and straightening necessary in order to use the same equipment that's used on all the other roads for snow clearing and, therefore, that is a cost-saving to the department and to Yukon taxpayers.
Mr. McRobb: I'm not sure if that's accurate - that there was only one requested by the department. In fact, I have information here that indicates that the front section on the Aishihik Road, kilometre 0 to 42, was requested by transportation and maintenance. That's the department, Mr. Chair.
I'm also aware that the North Canol bridges near Ross River were requested by transportation and maintenance, so was the Duncan Creek Road at Mayo requested by transportation maintenance, and so was the Keno Signpost Road near Keno requested by transportation and maintenance.
Mr. Chair, the Fish Lake Road near Whitehorse was also requested by transportation and maintenance - the list is getting longer - the Kusawa Lake Road was requested by transportation and maintenance, and finally the Policeman's Point Road was requested by transportation and maintenance.
Mr. Chair, clearly it's more than one project that was requested by the department. I would like to know if that was a departure from the practice of the previous government.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I note with interest that most of these projects were in the member's riding. Perhaps he would have preferred that his constituents not have the work. However, it's my understanding that projects come to the department's attention in a number of ways. I know that, in the case of the projects in the Mayo area - the Duncan Creek Road and the Signpost Road - the Mayo residents asked for these. They may have been raised by the department, but that doesn't mean people didn't want them.
Is the Member for Kluane seriously telling me that nobody wanted the work to be done on the first 42 kilometres of the Aishihik Road? I would find that very hard to believe, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, that's a blatant misrepresentation of my position. It's misinterpreted and spun with Liberal nonsense into something that is very hard to fathom, even in this Legislature.
Mr. Chair, it had nothing to do with the question. The question relates to whether or not there has been a change in policy in the decision making for the rural road upgrade program by this Liberal government.
The departmental minister stood up and said, "No, it's stay the course from the previous government."
I asked what projects this past year have been recommended by the department. She responded by saying one project. I came back by listing several more projects that were requested by the department. Now, she responds, Mr. Chair, very aggressively and in an uncooperative way, I might add, and challenges me on whether or not I support projects that were approved in my own riding.
Then the minister feels she has cause to accuse me of political games playing yet follows up with something as ridiculous as that example.
Mr. Chair, it goes without saying that I'm supportive of projects in the Kluane riding, but that's not the issue. The issue, before it was clouded, is simply the government's decision-making process. Obviously, there have been changes, and the minister is either ashamed to admit them or doesn't want us to know, hence this smokescreen. Well, once again, it's not easy to find a way through the smoke and mirrors to get to the relevant information. In fact, it may not be attainable, because, in the end, these Liberals will use their majority to win. They'll use their majority to say no; they'll use their majority to get their own way on matters such as these. Even though we're all proud to be part of a democracy, we all must realize it has its failings. So there is no guarantee that even we, as elected representatives of the people, can access information, regardless of the nature - even the simplistic information such as the matter I'm requesting.
In fact, it's common that we don't receive it at all. How would the folks back home feel if they knew that the people they send here to represent them were being stonewalled in this fashion - being deprived of such basic information? Mr. Chair, I'll tell you what some of them would think. I know their answer right now. They'd say that it's time for a revolution. "If those federal Liberals wouldn't have taken our guns away, we'd be having a revolution now," some would say, because they have had enough.
Now, that might be understandable, had Yukoners elected some right-wing fascist government into office. Then, I suppose, they couldn't expect anything better. But in all fairness, Mr. Chair, that didn't happen. They elected a government they thought would do things better, do things differently, provide a higher level of cooperation with the opposition members, improve the decorum in the Legislature, go out and do some worthwhile consultation with them, and be more inclusive in the decision-making process - not just take their marching orders from the department and the party's own friends in the back room. Yukoners expected something a lot better than that. And that is what is so surprising now - to discover that basic information is being withheld, that members of the Liberal government are becoming very well-versed in stonewall tactics, and that, commonly, they are evasive and unhelpful.
They are becoming very skilled in circumlocution of their responsibility, playing a circle game, and pointing the finger at somebody else in another process that may or may not exist. Already today we have played the circle game a few times. Of course, the biggest circle game of this government is the budget circle game that I alluded to earlier this afternoon - fall, spring, fall, to ring a bell.
Now, what I'm trying to get to the bottom of here is who makes the decisions on the rural road upgrade program? Because, obviously, many of these recommendations that were approved in the last year were recommended by the department. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with that. It's just an observation.
Mr. Chair, there is also a need, at the government political level, to collect input from Yukoners and to respond to their needs. In doing so, they shouldn't carry out that action willy-nilly. There ought to be principles upheld in the process. There are certain guidelines.
Now, can the minister explain for us who makes the decisions on these projects? Who - not how many stars each one gets before they float to the top - makes the decisions and what is the policy that is in place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would be pleased to supply the Member for Kluane with a copy of the policy statement regarding the rural roads upgrading program if he would like. I am concerned from the member's remarks that he may be trying to set me up for a charge of political interference in the rural roads program. I see that he is not denying that. Very interesting. That is why the grid system - the ranking system - exists, so that the projects that need to be done will get done. I signed off on them last year. That is a minister's job. I will sign off on them again this year. The member is questioning the integrity of the Yukon public in his remarks and also the integrity of the civil service. I resent that. I also resent his insinuations that the people who work for this department are somehow manipulating the process. They drive the roads, they observe on all the roads - the highways and the rural roads - what needs to be done. And people come to department members in rural communities with their concerns about the state of some of the rural roads. These are the same departmental members that the Member for Kluane was speaking so highly of earlier this afternoon. Now we are seeing his true colours.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I totally disagree with the member, but I will provide him with the policy statement for the program if he so chooses.
Mr. McRobb: If I responded to those remarks the way that I feel like responding to them, Mr. Chair, you would probably rule that this discussion was becoming unparliamentary, and for just reason. People concerned about us making progress in here might have cause to be alarmed, so I am going to rise above the personal insults.
I'm going to address a few of the attacks made by the minister. Firstly, she challenged me on what I said earlier in regard to my respect for the work done by people in this department. Mr. Chair, I want to assure you that I have the highest regard for the people in the department, and in no way feel any disrespect toward them. The minister has twisted that equation so severely that she arrived at a twisted answer.
Mr. Chair, I'll move to the question of integrity of the public and of the civil service. I did not question the integrity of them. The Minister of Education chirps up from the front bench that we have to respect their choice. Well, here's what he means by that, Mr. Chair. Because they're elected by the people, they're free to do anything that they feel they might do, and if we on this side take exception to their actions or anything they say, then somehow we on this side are challenging the integrity of Yukoners who put them there.
The Minister of Education agrees with that logic. Well, that's unbelievable.
Mr. Chair, if there are any more revelations like that, it is going to be hard to continue in this job with this government, holding them accountable, because the workload is not being reduced, it's increasing all the time. Well, the minister is talking about resigning now, and finally he is seeing the light. He's seeing the error of his ways. But seriously, Mr. Chair, these types of counterattacks from the minister and other colleagues of hers are simply excessive, and they exceed the envelope of reasonable behaviour in this Legislature and what the voters who put them there expect. The voters who put them there, Mr. Chair, expect them to behave responsibly and cooperate for the betterment of all Yukoners - not to play little games, not to accuse us of spurious motives should we question them, not to throw out smoke and mirrors and hope we lose our way, hope we lose our resolve and give up pursuing some of these matters. They have their hopes and dreams, and we're beginning to see just what those hopes and dreams really are. They're not for a better Yukon. They're not for a better life for the people of the Yukon. They're not for building a future. Their hopes and dreams are focused on making their own jobs a little easier and helping them to escape accountability, helping them to hang on to all the information and not have to share any of it with us.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: On a point of order, under Standing Order 19(1)(h), I believe that the member opposite is imputing false motives to another member on this side of the Legislature.
Chair: There's no point of order. His opinion expressed is fairly expressed.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, there's another example to demonstrate that what I'm talking about is very accurate. What we see from the Member for Mount Lorne in this Legislature - most of the energy coming out of her has to do with shutting down constructive debate, has to do with fulfilling their own hopes and dreams of being less accountable, of trying to harbour information and not having to distribute it, and standing up in support of her ministers when they become insulting.
Is that why the people of Mount Lorne elected her? I would hope not, Mr. Chair. What is she doing in this Legislature to improve the Yukon or improve the lives of people in the Yukon? Very little. What are her colleagues doing - the Minister of Community and Transportation Services? After one year, we see very little. And what's worse is that, on the near-term horizon, there's virtually nothing. There are no new, fresh ideas at all, and more people will become aware of that. No matter how many mirrors and how much smoke they might blow, people will see the truth. And we'll help spread that message, Mr. Chair.
It's too bad some of these afternoons in Committee aren't televised. If the people back home saw what was going on here, there would be a revolution now, even though their guns have been taken away.
They'd be at the doors with their peashooters even, because this is unacceptable. There is no reason to stonewall the provision of such simple information.
I will ignore the personal attacks, and I take exception to the comments by the minister in her previous remarks. I would urge her to rise above the rhetoric and the personal attacks, and just stick to providing the information requested. We'll have a lot better time of it in here.
Now, I have some specific questions regarding the budget book for this department. The first one is - the cuts to the department seem to have come at the expense of the capital budget, which is down by eight percent, while O&M has gone up by 10 percent in heritage resources alone. Can the minister explain that to us, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The O&M has increased partly because of the increase in wages negotiated by the union last year, and there is an increase in superannuation, as well. Those are common across all departments. I'm sorry, I missed the other part of the member's question.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the question asked about - the cuts to the departments seem to have come at the expense of the capital budget, which is down by some eight percent. O&M has gone up by 10 percent in HR alone. I asked her to explain why.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there is less in capital recoveries this year, which makes up the bulk of that.
Mr. McRobb: I'm going to have to look that one over a little later, Mr. Chair.
Now, in capital, I notice that municipal and transportation services has been reduced. Can she explain that and indicate why?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Sorry, did the member say municipal and community affairs?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Why that has gone down?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's done on a project-by-project basis, Mr. Chair. There is less land development this year. That is the bulk of that one.
Mr. McRobb: Well, okay. On the roads and streets upgrade, can the minister provide an explanation as to which projects are involved there, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I could, Mr. Chair. It would be a lot easier if we did it in line-by-line, instead of flipping through papers. It's just that there is a $5,000 difference from last year.
I will go through it. There are four projects: $200,000 for road improvements and BST of Carcross roads; $75,000 to upgrade sections of the sawmill road at Ross River, which I already mentioned; $20,000 to look into some problem areas and make a number of small improvements to various roads in unincorporated communities and areas; and $20,000 for consultation and the preliminary design study for an all-weather second access road for the Taku subdivision in Tagish.
Mr. McRobb: Now, there's of course no long-term plan in this budget, and there are several cuts. Can the minister indicate what's on the horizon with regard to upgrading the roads and streets in the territory through her department? Does she have any idea what's coming next?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We will continue to work on maintaining the roads and streets where it is our responsibility to do so. We will continue to talk to Yukoners on budget tours and whenever we happen to meet with them, which is every day. And I don't foresee any great change in the future, but, as the member knows, we're in our capital planning process and our long-term planning process at the moment.
Mr. McRobb: Well, okay. Can the minister explain why the revenues in O&M are down by some 19 percent, as compared with the actuals for 1999-00?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Can the member just confirm for me which area he's talking about?
Mr. McRobb: That would be the revenues in O&M that are down by 19 percent in relation to the actuals from last year.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm sorry, I don't see the line that he is looking at.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I am going to have to sort through this information to provide more detail on that. I was hoping that the minister would know what it is. I'll move on to the next one.
Can the minister explain why capital would be down to about $46,000 as compared to the $50,000 forecast?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: You are not only managing to confuse me; you are confusing my deputy minister. Could you perhaps tell us what page number you are looking at?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. I hope that I am not confusing you, Ms. Buckway. Please refer your remarks through the Chair instead of at the Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it has been the practice of the government to confuse us, so this is one of those rare occasions when it has worked otherwise. I certainly didn't intend to do that.
Once again, to provide any more detail at this time, I am going to have to refer to my notes, which will require a little bit of time and I won't be able to do it right now. I will get back to her on that tomorrow. I will proceed to the next question.
The corporate services division has a six-percent increase in O&M. Can the minister indicate what this increase reflects, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Kluane has obviously been doing a great deal of math, as he has percentages that I don't have.
In the corporate services division, the 2001-02 O&M budget is $424,000; $404,000 is for personnel, $20,000 is for other. The O&M comparison with the previous year shows an increase of $39,000. That is resulting from a half-time clerical position to support data entry into the human resources information system. That person has been increased to full-time at $29,000. As I previously mentioned, the impact of the collective agreement increase and the changes to the fringe benefit plan total $10,000.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I'm going to have to sleep on that one before I can follow up on it. That was quite a bit in the way of numbers.
Now, I notice the total allotments in operation and maintenance is up by some five percent, while the total capital vote is down by some eight percent. Can the minister explain for us the rationale for these two different trends and how they relate to each other?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's very difficult to deal with numbers being thrown at you from across the floor when you don't know what page the member is on. It would be much easier if he would do this in line-by-line debate; however, the eight-percent decrease in recoverables was largely the Shakwak project -
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is accusing me of whining. I don't believe I'm whining, Mr. Chair - and the rest of it was land development.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister didn't explain the trends and how they relate to one another. I'm hoping to get some information from her on that. Is there anything more she can offer?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I think the member is seeing a trend where there isn't any. We have a million and a half fewer dollars required of Shakwak funding this year because of the projects that we're doing this year, and there is less land development. I don't believe this is the beginning of the trend, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, in sticking with the issues, on emergency measures - on page 8, I believe it is - it mentions $221,000 for repair and maintenance of equipment. This seems like a large expenditure. Can the minister provide some explanation around what those repairs are for and what kind of equipment exactly is being repaired and whether or not any of those repairs are being done in-house? What information can she provide to shed some light on that for us?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it's for repairs and maintenance of mobile and portable communications equipment.
Mr. McRobb: Is that the MDMRS, or is it something else, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The MDMRS is certainly a major part of it.
Mr. McRobb: All right. On page 13, on transportation division - what kinds of activities are included under the line for highway maintenance? Would this include, for example, brush clearing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, this does include additional money for brush clearing.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, can the minister indicate whether or not that allocation is spread evenly across the territory, or are there certain areas in particular that will be receiving more than other areas? In other words, are there specific regions this allocation will be targeted to?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll have to get back to the member on that, because I don't have all of the details about where crews will be clearing brush this coming summer.
Mr. McRobb: Fine, I'm more than willing to entertain the minister getting back with information. I would invite that type of response, because I feel it's helpful and provides the information being requested.
Now, on page 14, in transportation engineering division, there is $25,000 for communications. Can the minister indicate if this is an increase in this particular item over the last year, and what kinds of communication activities would be consuming this amount of money?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is a $3,000 increase in communications Centrex charges. It's a little hard to pull this together when we aren't in the line-by-line, because it's kind of all over the place. But, yes, there is a $3,000 increase in communications Centrex charges - and telephones.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, is that part of the tariff increase by Northwestel? Is that what that increase is for?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It may be, but I'll check with the department and confirm with the member.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Now, on page 17, $65,000 is earmarked for supplies. Can the minister clarify for us what kind of supplies we're looking at and how they will be purchased? For example, will they be bought locally, and so on?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'm looking for this particular item. Can the member nod as to whether he was asking if that was an increase over the last year or just what the details were?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Okay. The information that I have doesn't break it down as to specific supplies, but I will certainly ask the department for that information and get back to the member. There are a number of items there.
Considering the time, I move that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 13, 2001:
Nuclear waste: Russia's plans to ship through the Arctic Ocean